In Joe Godfrey’s new play, Romance Language, middle-aged Kay (Audrey Heffernan Meyer) is searching for joy again after experiencing a divorce and the death of her husband. Kay’s grown and smart-as-a-whip lawyer daughter Penny (Mairin Lee) is worried about her mother spending the rest of her life alone and insists that her mom find some kind of productive hobby or class to fill her time. With the help of her attractive and charming Italian tutor, Fiore (Jared Zirilli), Kay soon finds herself a lot less lonely.
Under the direction of Carl Andress, Romance Language takes a close look at the value of our closest relationships. Heffernan Meyer hits on the emotion of a woman searching for love and rebirth after loss and pain as she embraces the possibility of a new life with Fiore, with all of the giddiness and naivety of a schoolgirl. Lee acts more like the mother in this case as she is suspicious of Fiore’s intentions with her parent, a well-off, middle-aged woman who has the hot ticket he needs to stay in the country. The roles are reversed as Penny does all of the extensive research of a parent to ensure her mother’s safety and happiness. In the end, the importance of family prevails as love is finally expressed after the ugly truth is exposed and hashed out over all these years.
Romance Language keeps the audience entertained and in suspense as this family’s story unfolds and we learn about Penny’s relationship with her father and her maybe selfish reasons for wanting to eliminate any potential future suitors for her mother. Penny and Kay’s relationship is tested during the process and we also see it from the perspective of Fiore, an outsider who seems to have a good grip on this family’s dynamic. While the storyline is a bit far-fetched and unrealistic – falling in love and willing to change your life in only a few weeks – the lessons and truth it brings about for Penny and Kay is necessary and what defines the heart of their mother-daughter relationship.
The costume design by Gregory Gale was exquisite as Kay and Penny were decked out in the latest in comfortable and sophisticated fashions to suit their lifestyles. Corporate queen Penny wore tailored suits and blazers to express her professionalism and no-nonsense personality, while the “new” Kay wore everything from fitted jeans and comfy cardigans for her lessons to a gorgeous lace dress and high pumps for date night at the opera with Fiore. It was apparent that as Kay tried to improve her life, her fashions matched her desire to look and feel good as she paid extra attention to her overall presentation. Set design by Paul Tate dePoo III is stunning and represents the elegance of an Upper East Side apartment with beautiful furnishings, portraits and one-of-a-kind keepsakes from far-off places.
This decadent play will have the audience wishing for far-off lands, not wanting to return, but will ultimately bring them back to the life reality has in store for them. Lessons will be learned and boundaries will be pushed on this romantic journey. We may not get what we want, but we will always get what we need.
Romance Language (through November 8, 2015)
Theater 511 at Ars Nova, 511 W 54th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.romancelanguageplay.com
Running time: 85 minutes without an intermission