‘Old Flame’ Play Depicts The Power of Old Romance

An old love can be an irresistible force, especially for people in their autumn years. Is marriage an immoveable object? “Old Flame,” a new play by Richard Ploetz, weighs the force of an old romance against the strength of a 50-year marriage, examining our vulnerability to rediscovered passion, no matter what our age. Theater for the New City will present the piece April 24 to May 17, directed by James Glossman.

The play, set in Astoria, Queens in the year 2000, describes the romantic intrigues of people who are no longer young: in fact, they are now on the cusp of 70. Mike Ripley, a 72 year old Florida dentist who was Barbara Marchand’s bad-boy high-school boyfriend, surprises her with a phone call on their shared birthday. This shakes up Barbara’s 50-year marriage to Frank, a loving but bumbling tire salesman.

Mike has carried a torch for “Babs” all these years. Now feeling the chill of mortality, he longs to reunite with his old flame. He arrives from Florida with Leonora Todorovich – his much younger Serbian girlfriend – in tow. The two couples, rather than repelling each other, form an unlikely (and increasingly untenable) friendship that causes them each to question who they are and what they want. Marshall, the Marchands’ son, awash in his own marital confusion, finds himself the reluctant hapless arbiter in the menage-a-quatre. Frank, not knowing how to fight for Barbara, is left to suffer in his own self-pity. “Old Flame” considers the question of what love is and if it changes over time. If Barbara finds her way back to Frank, will he – should he – accept her?

Playwright Richard Ploetz customarily draws plays from real life, and this one is no exception. He was inspired by a story of a friend whose mother was visited by an “old flame” while her husband was slipping into dementia. There’s no dementia in Ploetz’s play – the dramatic situation of a mother’s romantic re-awakening was much more provocative to him. When Mike shipped off to Korea, Barbara embraced the security that Frank provided. She thinks she has forgotten Mike, but his arrival rekindles their youthful passion. It’s a fact of our lives that old love never dies. Once the passion of youth is reawakened, can you ever go back? “Old Flame” hits home for anyone who has loved, no matter what their age.

Richard Ploetz (playwright) attended Yale Drama School and holds an MFA from the Columbia writing program. His plays have been presented through the years by WPA Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Theater Genesis, Ensemble Studio Theater, La MaMa and South Coast Repertory Theater (CA). Ploetz is also an active member of Emerging Artists Theatre. His recent productions include “Cezanne On a Clear Day” (Emerging Artists Theatre), “Old Love & The Letter” (Kraine Theater) “Deceit” (TNC), all in 2013, and “Versailles” (TNC, 2014). He writes, “Crystal Field is a truly rare gem. It is a privilege to have my third play in as many years produced with Crystal’s support and guidance. She, TNC and her extraordinary staff are what make drama and audiences come alive.”

James Glossman (director) has directed over 200 productions, among them his recent adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s noir classic, “Trouble Is My Business,” which had its world premiere at Portland Stage, following an earlier benefit staging with Academy Award nominee David Strathairn at NY’s Shadowland Theatre, where he is Associate Artistic Director. His production of “The Value of Names,” starring Jack Klugman, played in NY, NJ, and Los Angeles, and last winter he directed the first production in 50 years of Sheldon Harnick’s “lost” 1961 musical comedy, “Smiling, the Boy Fell Dead,” with a cast led by Judy Kaye and Tony Roberts, at the York Theatre in NYC. Over 4 decades after it was written, he directed the L.A. premiere of Noel Coward’s “A Song at Twilight” with Orson Bean and Alley Mills. A graduate of Northwestern University, ACT, BADA-Oxford, and Yale Drama School, he is on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University and is a member of SSDC and the Dramatists Guild.

Frank Anderson (Mike Ripley) appeared as Honey Fitz in York Theatre’s “JACK” and “Frame 313” for MITF. He won the New York Innovative Theatre Award as Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role for “The Return of Peter Grimm” at Metropolitan Playhouse. He appeared in “Fiddler on the Roof” with Theodore Bikel and in the Canadian and Broadway companies of Hal Prince’s “Show Boat.”

Prentiss Benjamin (Leonora) has appeared in NY in “Romeo and Juliet” at Lucille Lortel and “How To Build A Better Tulip” at Acorn Theatre. Her regional credits include “Boeing-Boeing” at Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” at Boarshead Theatre, “The Dining Room” at Cape Playhouse, “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Fulton Opera House, “Sunrise at Monticello” by Guillermo Reyes and “Flying Crows” by Jim Lehrer at Playwrights Theatre of NJ and “Tour de Farce” at NJ Rep. Her films include “Racing with The Moon” and “Hard Four.”

Jerry Matz (Frank) appeared on Broadway in “Roza,” “Ghetto” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” He has also appeared widely Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and in regional theater, TV and film. He most recently appeared as Frank in “The Groundling” by Marc Palmieri at Axis Theatre.

Paul Murphy (Marshall) has appeared at Medicine Show, Judson and York Theatres in NYC, Hudson Valley’s Shadowland Theatre, NJ’s Luna Stage Co, Michigan’s BoarsHead and L.A.’s Skirball Center for the Arts. He is a founding member of Lunatic Fringe, a NJ-based Improv Comedy troupe.

Linda Setzer (Barbara) appeared opposite John Astin in Jeffrey Sweet’s “Bluff” at NY’s Shadowland Theatre, Balitmore’s Merrick Barn,and BoarsHead Theatre in Michigan. Recently, she played Margaret in Terrence McNally’s “A Perfect Ganesh” at Luna Stage Co (NJ) and Linda in the world premiere of “Futebol” by Eilis Cahill at the NY International Fringe Festival.

Scenic design is by Christopher and Justin Swader. Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff. Costume design is by Bettina Bierly.

Theater for the New City will present “Old Flame” April 24 to May 17, 2015 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street). Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM qnd Sundays at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $18 gen. adm. and $15 seniors and students. The box office number is 212-254-1109. Tickets can be purchased online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net. The play’s website is www.nedworksproductions.org.

Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.