THE LAST WIDE OPENby Audrey Cefaly and music by Matthew M. Nielson
Stage Manager – Liz Stevens
Assistant Director – Nigel Jamal Hall
Intimacy Director – Ashley White
Costume Designer – Amy Poe
Lighting Designer – Kat Farenhold
Props Designer – Kaitlin Hatton
Scenic Designer – Tristan Decker
Sound Designer – Brian McDonald
Master Carpenter – Rick Morrison
Carpenters – Roger Drummond, Thomas Esslinger, Grant Morrison, Charlie Porter, Brian Smith
Lighting Design Assistant – Vinchenzo Locascio
Production Consultant – Don Jordan
Scenic Artist – Lauren Garza
Sound Intern – Ryan Simon
Board Operator - Jasmine Mesre
Production Intern – Brianna Bellow
Wardrobe – Jordan La Grenade
Lina – Taylor Staniforth
Roberto – Luke Longcacre
Stagehand/Understudy - Olivia Cinquepalmi
Stagehand/Understudy - Antonio Demonde Thomas
Reviewed Performance: 10/1/2021
Reviewed by Cat Jimenez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I should first mention that romance is not a genre that I really gravitate toward. I find it predictable and overrated, often being done in a way that I’ve seen done many times. This show told the story of Lina and Roberto in a way that surprised and moved me. I will first mention the set, as it’s the first thing that caught my attention. I would describe the set as a character of its own, bringing life to the show in a way that differed but enhanced the performance of the actors. Scenic director Tristan Decker has truly put together an amazingly detailed set. This is his first show with Circle Theatre, but he has many years of work in theatre under his belt. He has worked for nine years as technical director for Theatre TCU, and that’s not all his experience. At this point, it is not hard to see where his mastery of set design comes from. The lighting by Kate Farenthold was done beautifully, it enhanced the set greatly and made it possible to change the mood and played into the setting well.
Moving on to the actors in this play, there is only three people who take part in the on-stage performance. The actress playing Lena, Taylor Staniforth, did an astonishing job at playing a sour woman with a cynical take on love. I found it so interesting that a character who represents fear of intimacy and loneliness, the embodiment of a blasé attitude on life could bring such big energy to the stage. It all lies with the ability of the actor to engage and keep the audience, and Taylor did a fantastic job at that. Not only does this actress possess plenty of talent, but the chemistry with her co-star was sweet and unexpected.
On to Roberto (Luke Longacre), a sweet and shy Italian immigrant. A romantic, soft character that contrasts with Lena beautifully. Luke Long is an excellent Roberto. He manages to keep a consistent Italian accent while portraying deep vulnerability. In scenes when he doesn’t speak much English, he manages to still bring so much emotion and perfectly balance out Lena and her somewhat manic behavior. He is hopeful and this character is a good chance to represent the eager vulnerability of someone needing closeness. The show gave both these characters plenty of opportunities to show the way different personalities respond to falling in love and having to open up to have a chance at it. The play balances a fourth wall breaking narrative surrounding the three movements and I love this; it was somehow a way to better show off a romantic story than a regular show of characters oblivious to their own stereotypes.
The last character to discuss is the stagehand, a narrative helper that helps the movement set up, and helps the two main characters in moving forward. It’s an interesting character in that “stagehand” is not the kind of character seen often actually on stage while the performance goes on. This is part of the fourth wall breaking maneuver I enjoyed in the show.
I want to discuss the idea of playing with timelines and alternate endings. I genuinely believe that the way this show was set up was the reason it was so intriguing to me. The personalities of Lena and Roberto change with the movements and this way of setting the play up allowed so much more narrative freedom. Overall, this show was worth watching and I believe it would be worth re-watching. I was expecting to be bored or at the very least unimpressed, but this show really showed me a side to romance as a genre that I hadn’t explored and that I thoroughly enjoyed.