‘Southern Comforts’ serves up hefty helping of humor

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LEWISTON — North meets South, and that’s just the beginning of the complications facing Amanda and Gus as they find love late in life.

 Two excellent actors bring “Southern Comforts” to The Public Theatre stage, and the opening night performance May 7 was a standing ovation crowd-pleaser. The show continues through May 16.

 “Southern Comforts” is an easy-going play with a good helping of humor. It’s about two people who never found full loving relationships in their first marriages and had come to accept what they believed was an inevitable situation. A chance meeting opens their eyes to the possibilities of a new start.

 Ed Schiff is Gus, a retired stone mason whose lifestyle is as solid and ordered as his former profession. The taciturn Yankee widower sees no need for change.

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 Louisa Flaningam plays Amanda, a lively Southern lady who has come to New Jersey to visit her daughter. She knocks on Gus’s door to deliver some church donation envelopes and a sudden thunderstorm keeps her there long enough for them to begin discovering shared interests.

 Both Schiff and Flaningam have impressive lists of movie, TV and stage credits. They are new to the TPT stage and director Christopher Schario, TPT’s artistic director, makes the most of this excellent pairing.

 There is plenty of good comedy in “Southern Comforts.” Gus, who lives in the large Victorian house where he was born, has an annual routine for getting the storm windows on and off. He has done it the same way for years, but it doesn’t get easier with age. Scenes involving the storm windows are hilarious.

 The scene in which Amanda probes for Gus’ sexual views and capabilities also had the opening night audience howling as Gus squirms in embarrassment.

 Although they are opposites in many ways, Gus and Amanda find themselves making compromises that come hard for both. Choosing a gravestone leads to misunderstandings that threaten the new romance, but it’s a critical issue they can’t avoid. They come to the obvious realization that missed opportunities for love in earlier years makes their second chance extremely important.

 In the six scenes of the two-act play, these actors give the audience an honest and touching experience. The play makes it clear that romantic excitement and fulfillment are possible, no matter how old the people in a relationship may be.

 Playwright Kathleen Clark also wrote “Secrets of a Soccer Mom,” a hit TPT production in 2008.

 The Victorian living room is the first set design for Aaron Laudermith. He does a good job providing a setting that must serve many purposes for the show. Costumes by Kathleen Brown are also pleasing, and veteran lighting designer Bart Garvey stages a rousing thunderstorm.

The Public Theatre’s 17th annual silent auction will continue in the lobby of the theater during the production.

Remaining shows

WHAT: “Southern Comforts”

WHO: The Public Theatre

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday May 14-15;  2 p.m. Saturday, May 15; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 16.

WHERE: 31 Maple St., Lewiston

TICKETS:  Call 782-3200 or visit www.thepublictheatre.org

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