Recently I had the opportunity to see a play that I’ve been anticipating for some time now, Stella & Lou (written by Bruce Graham and directed by BJ Jones) at Northlight Theatre, located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (9501 Skokie Boulevard) in Skokie, which is centered – as one might rightly assume -- around the title characters, played by Rhea Perlman and Francis Guinan respectively, both of whom are entering new phases in their lives and the way they deal with it.
Lou is the owner of a Philadelphia bar that has most certainly seen better days, who has been in mourning and stuck in a sort of rut, a holding pattern since his wife passed away years earlier from a serious prolonged illness. Though he does not seem particularly happy doing what he’s doing -- which essentially consists of going from his home to manage the bar and back again, day in and day out, with the odd trip to shop for groceries thrown in here and there -- he continues to follow the same routine because he’s used to it. Though the bar is no longer the once popular spot it was, he rejects Stella’s suggestions -- i.e. painting the place, brightening it up a bit brighter, adding Wi-Fi to attract the younger crowd -- believing it to be perfectly fine the way it is, the way it’s always been, the way he’s always known it.
Stella, a long-time ER nurse, on the other hand longs for change in her life, which is what prompts her to visit and, as she tells Lou, consider a move to Florida. She’s tired of her ER-to-home-and back again routine that she’s maintained for years, the stress, the lack of camaraderie between her and her colleagues and the general lack of any real, meaningful personal connection in her life. The move, she tells Lou, would also enable her to be closer to her daughter and grandchild, since she feels she doesn’t have anything else holding her there in Philadelphia, and could easily get the same kind of job in Florida. Of course, there is something of an ulterior motive for her telling him all of this as well. She hopes that he will pick up on these signals that she is sending his way, and that if he feels about her the same way that she does about him, he would ask her to stay.
However, Lou being Lou, his radar seems to be broken, and so he seems to take absolutely no notice, which prompts Stella to confess her feelings to Lou and ask him out to a dinner in Atlantic City. Rather than being receptive, he turns the offer down, telling her that he doesn’t go anywhere anymore, and besides that she couldn’t replace his wife even on her best day. After several repetitions of her pursuing him, she leaves, prompting him to realize that he may not see her again and decides to go after her.
Though the play was very well-acted and is a wonderful commentary on social isolation and loneliness among the aging population, the play can seem a bit repetitious in spots, and the added character of Donnie (Ed Flynn) seems a little awkward at times.
Stella & Lou runs at Northlight Theatre through June 9, 2013. For more information regarding this production or the upcoming 2013-2014 season, visit the theatre’s website, www.northlight.org. To purchase tickets to Stella & Lou, log onto www.northlight.org or call the Box Office at 847-673-6300. Tickets for Previews are $25 - $54, or $25 - $72 for the Regular Run. Student tickets are $15 for any performance, subject to availability.
Performances are Tuesdays at 7:30 pm (except May 21 and June 4), Wednesdays at 1:00 pm (except May 22) and 7:30 pm (except May 29), Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 pm (except May 4) and 8:00 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm and 7:00 pm (May 5, 25 and June 2 only). As always, it is strongly recommended that you consult the theatre’s website to confirm performance dates and times.
Production Photos: Michael Brosilow