‘Stella and Lou’ at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre

‘Stella and Lou’ Written by Bruce Graham; Directed by Charles Towers; presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA. Performances through Dec.22nd.

 ‘Stella and Lou’, the one act now being presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre, is an entertaining play for everyone, but it will be particularly appealing to those in their forties or older. It is, after all, the story of one last chance at love in an ever-changing world.

 Do you ever wonder if your life is still relevant? Do you find yourself pulling back more and more from the world around you? On the one hand you want to resist becoming an ‘old’ person (your parents) but on the other hand you can relate to them more each passing day. ‘Stella and Lou’ is in part the story of a couple of middle-aged people who are good, decent folks looking to stay relevant, happy and involved in life.

 Stella and Lou are experiencing most or all of the things we ‘middle-agers’ are going through in our own lives, and that’s one great reason to grab tickets to this terrific show now being performed in downtown Lowell. You’re bound to see at least pieces of your own life being acted out on stage. Guaranteed.

 The lines are funny and the situations relevant to those of us who find ourselves on the other side of the midlife line and aren’t sure we’re still ‘in the game’. Stella and Lou are trying to stay in the game, or at least Stella is, and she’s looking to Lou to help keep her in it. Lou on the other hand, detests change and carries with him a lot of personal baggage from a life that has not always been easy.

 The play is set in a fictional bar in author Bruce Graham’s home town of South Philadelphia. I loved the scenery for its unerring accuracy. Except for the pictures of the Philadelphia Phillies above the bar, this could be a tired old bar in any town in America. Scenic designer Bill Clarke made a wonderfully understated and instantly recognizable place for this romantic comedy to unfold. The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre is a small comfortable place that seats only a few hundred and it’s a perfect entertainment venue for intimate shows like ‘Stella and Lou’.

 Further enhancing the sense of reality are the actor’s bittersweet and emotional performances. Bill Geisslinger as the inflexible Lou, and Antoinette LaVecchia as the hopeful Stella are so perfectly ‘real’, I felt like I was a patron in an actual dingy bar eavesdropping on an intimate conversation between bartender and customer.

 Lou has just been to a funeral for one of the ‘regulars’ at his bar and has discovered some disturbing things about him. Meanwhile, in walks Stella as Lou is about to close up for the night. She has a proposal for Lou and Ms. LaVecchia does a superb job showing us the inner struggle she faces attempting to broach the subject. Will this moment in two well-meaning lives end happily, or not? Come out to ‘Stella and Lou’ and find out. It is well worth it. For more info, visit: http://www.mrt.org/StellaandLou