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Theatre Review (LA): Southern Comforts by Kathleen Clark at the Falcon Theatre

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Two seasoned pros are strutting their stuff on the Falcon Theatre stage. Michael Learned and Granville Van Dusen light up the stage in the Off Broadway hit romantic comedy Southern Comforts written by Kathleen Clark and directed by Jules Aaron. This is a delightful tale of romance late in life, and it is sexy too.

Michael Learned plays a Southern widow, Amanda, who stops by the house of a crusty New Jersey widower, Gus (Mr. Van Dusen), to elicit a donation for a church. She is only in town to visit her daughter, and he normally wouldn’t entertain a visitor, but nature, in the form of a thunderstorm, forces them together.

What evolves is a sweet romance built on a clash of personalities and sexual attraction. Gus hasn’t had sex in a long time and his late wife was frigid in response to his taciturn ways. Amanda will have none of his silences and like a bubbling Southern hostess brings him out of his shell and eventually moves in.

The moving in is one of the more satisfying parts of the play and it happens before the audience’s eyes. Gus has lived a solitary existence since his wife died, and has pared down the furniture to the bare necessities: a comfortable chair, a desk, and a wooden chair. Amanda likes her frills, her curtains, several chairs, pictures on the wall, as well as her own corner chair where she plans to write a novel about her family.

What brings these two together in the first place are their mutual love of sports and their mutual loneliness. You find yourself rooting for their togetherness thanks to Amanda’s persistence. Of course conflict occurs but in a surprising place: in an argument over gravestones. The whole issue of gravestones raises some interesting ethical questions that only a couple marrying in later life might ask.

Michael Learned, still looking great, and Granville Van Dusen give wonderful performances, Van Dusen has the harder role because his character is rather unlikeable, but he makes us like him despite his churlish ways.

Southern Comforts will play at the Falcon Theatre until Nov. 13.

Photo credit: Chelsea Sutton

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