Friday, July 25, 2008

Love and tombstones

Kathleen Clark’s Southern Comforts is one of those odd couple romances. Gus Klingman is a stone mason with a New Jersey accent that could cut granite. Amanda Cross is a Southern belle with a honeyed twang that could drown bees. She's talky; he's taciturn; she's a people person; he likes his own company. Differences aside, they've got one big thing in common. They're both old.

Funny thing. It's not a big point. This is a comedy. Love makes people do silly things. The gag is as old as Shakespeare.

It's a two-part joke, as the Bard knew.

The basic set-up: Lovers act silly because they're pretending to be somebody else. They fall in love, wearing masks.

The punch line: Lovers get together and the masks come off. Then the baggage comes in. Comedy ensues.

The gag is the same for couples of all ages.

--Do you love me?
--Then, love my stuff. Love me; love my cat. Love me; love my books. Love me; love my family. Love me; love my history. Or tip-toe around my history: the elephantine ex-wife in the living room. Just pretend she isn’t there.

Director Robert J. Farley and actors Susan Greenhill and Richard Bourg do an excellent job without falling into cliche. There are plenty of tender moments. But plenty of bickering, too.

Ah, well. Mergers are never easy.

In this case, one of the points of negotiation is who gets the nice grave. I guess that is pretty much an old person thing.

Aside from that, Gus and Amanda could be any couple.

The clock is ticking for lovers everywhere.

‘Southern Comforts'
Through Aug. 17
Florida Studio Theatre
1241 North Palm Ave., Sarasota

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