‘Southern Comforts’ Public Theatre show captures the awkward, charming and funny moments of falling in love later in life


LEWISTON — “Southern Comforts,” a delightful comedy about falling in love after 50, opens at The Public Theatre on Friday, May 7. TPT Director Christopher Schario described it as “one of the funniest, most charming, most romantic and sweetest plays we have done.”

It’s also “truthful, awkward and enchanting,” he said. “One of the most wonderful things about this play is that aside from being entertaining, it also addresses very real issues about falling in love later in life.”

Starring in the TPT production of this two-actor play by Kathleen Clark are Louisa Flaningam as the spunky Southerner Amanda and Ed Schiff as her love interest Gus. Amanda and Gus are solidly set in their ways, but the unlikely pairing strikes unexpected romantic sparks.

“The play focuses on these two people who just have to come to terms with each other,” Schario said. They discover that a few new tricks are needed and it’s all about the importance of compromise and the rewards of change.

The entire play takes place in the living room of Gus’ large and now mostly empty Victorian house. He has been widowed for five years and has pared his possessions and habits down to the bare essentials.

Amanda is a lively grandmother visiting her daughter in New Jersey. On a stormy Sunday afternoon, she arrives at Gus’ door with a new set of collection envelopes for the church. This chance meeting of polar-opposite people leads to a gradual recognition of their attraction to each other.

Gus basically wants to be left alone and Amanda is the type who just can’t sit still. Baseball turns out to be something they have in common, and from there the relationship grows.

Gus and Amanda find themselves struggling with the complications of coming to terms with their love, and Act II focuses on the huge differences they have to resolve.

Both Flaningam and Schiff are performing at TPT for the first time.

“It’s so much fun to be in the rehearsal hall with them,” Schario said. “They each bring a lot to the table, and it’s undoubtedly the result of their life experiences.”

Flaningam has appeared on Broadway in “Guys and Dolls,” “Little Women,” “Bridadoon,” “Most Happy Fella” and, most recently, in the City Center Encores production of “Juno.” Her extensive credits in National Tours, Off-Broadway and regional theaters include “I Love My Wife” with the Smothers Brothers, “The Wonder Years” and a Barrymore nomination for “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Schiff has performed in the film “War of the Worlds,” in the CBS-TV’s series Grapevine,” on the ABC daytime soap opera “One Life to Live” and in hundreds of stage productions from Broadway to regional theater.

Schario said “Southern Comforts” affirms that “no matter how old or set in your ways you may be, there’s no time in your life when love can’t come — if you’re willing to change for love.”

“Southern Comforts” was originally created as a vehicle for Hal Holbrook and his real-life wife, Dixie Carter, and has had a successful run in New York Off-Broadway.

Aaron Lauder is providing his first set design for TPT with this production. Kathleen Brown, who did the costumes for TPT’s 2007 production of “Enchanted April,” will handle those duties for “Southern Comfort.” Bart Garvey is lighting designer.

Go and do

WHAT: Comedy “Southern Comforts”

WHO: The Public Theatre

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 7-8 and 14-15; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 13; 2 p.m. Saturday, May 15; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 9 and 16

WHERE: 31 Maple St., Lewiston

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

NOTE: TPT’s 17th annual silent auction will be held in the lobby during the production.