The Baltimore debut of Neil Simon's Play 'Rose's Dilemma' at Audrey Herman's Spotlighters Theatre is a delight. Upon my arrival, the mood for the play was already set. The extravagant surroundings and inspiring mementos that adorned the Spotlighters' walls were reminiscent of its main characters. This romantic comedy with serious overtones was brilliantly delivered by the four actors under the direction of Roy Hammond.
Celebrated author Rose Steiner (Joan Crooks), is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer who now resides in the comfort of her beach house in East Hampton, Long Island. Rose is facing financial ruin since she has not written a book for quite sometime, and her lavish lifestyle has now begun to take its toll on her bank account. Rose has conjured up the love of her life, Walsh McLaren (Denis L. Latkowski), who has been deceased for five years, but in Rose's mind, Walsh is very much alive. Their love was like no other and their undying passion continues night after night in Rose's mind to the point that she speaks to him out loud. Rose's personal assistant, Arlene (Brenda R. Crooks), spends her summers with Rose and is a constant reminder that Walsh is a figment of Rose's imagination.
Walsh advises Rose to hire a "ghost writer" to complete a novel he was working on at his untimely death. At first, Rose wants no parts of the idea, but Arlene points out that if Rose wishes to continue her lavish lifestyle, she must find the perfect "mystery writer" to finish the last 40 pages of Walsh's novel. If the novel is completed, Rose would then profit from the royalties. Enter young and dapper Gavin Clancy (Steven Shriner). Mr. Clancy needs a bit of persuading and soon becomes enamored with Arlene.
Secrets in the second act and, as is typical of a Neil Simon comedy, passion and laughter abound. Each actor was extremely well-suited for their part. Joan Crooks is very believable as the eccentric and hopeless romantic Rose and delivers a stellar performance.
Denis L. Latkowski as Walsh delivers each and every time. His strong presence is never overbearing, but delightful, evoking many laughs from the audience.
Brenda R. Crooks delivers not only laughter, but is quite real and convincing in her range of expressed emotions. At several points in the play, her performance brought tears to my eyes, as well as empathy from the audience, as we traveled with her in her journey of self-discovery. Shriner's very genuine, down-to-earth portrayal of the character, Clancy, was exceptional. He was extremely believable as we, the audience, watched his character develop from a beer-drinking bachelor to an upstanding gentleman who continues to keep love alive.
Credit Director Roy Hammond, Master Carpenter Dennis Crooks & Lightning Design Fuzz Roark who brought this play, along with its well casted actors, full circle. The use of sound--ocean waves and seagulls-- created the perfect mood, and the set was detailed well, from the overhead Tiffany lamp, wall sconces, novels stacked on book shelves, flowers, and more.
'Rose's Dilemma' runs approximately two hours and 10 minutes with a 15-minute intermission, continues at the Spotlighters Theatre, 817 St. Paul Street, now through Feb. 10th. For more information, visit at www.spotlighters.org.