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CdA Summer Theatre stages two in one with ‘Romance/Romance’

Thu., July 25, 2013, midnight

Four actors will take to the stage tonight in Coeur d’Alene and tell stories about love.

They’ll sing about love. They’ll even do a little polka and some soft-shoe hoofing.

In “Romance/Romance,” which opens today at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, two sets of couples in two different countries and two centuries explore what it means to love and be loved.

“Romance/Romance,” with book and lyrics by Barry Harman and music by Keith Herrmann, premiered on Broadway in 1988 and earned five Tony nominations, including best musical and best original score. The first act, “The Little Comedy,” is based on an Arthur Schnitzler play. The second act, “Summer Share,” is based on a Jules Renard play. Only one song is performed in both acts, “It’s Not Too Late.”

The play, directed by CST’s artistic director Roger Welch, with musical direction by Steven Dahlke, is a departure from the two earlier Coeur d’Alene offerings this summer, “Big River” and “Mary Poppins.”

“It’s not a familiar show even though it had some moderate success,” said Andrew Ware Lewis, one of the two male actors in the cast. “It’s fun, too, to be following ‘Mary Poppins,’ a huge smash hit, a major big-budget show, huge cast, then it’s just the four of us. So it’s major contrast to that. Instead of huge dance numbers, there’s one person on stage, or two people on stage.”

“The Little Comedy,” is set in late 19th century Vienna and is centered on two people, Lewis and Darcy Wright, who both shed their aristocratic trappings and head out among the commoners. They fall in love and struggle with how to reveal their true identities.

“He’s just so bored with the repulsive dreariness of bourgeois life,” Lewis said of his character, Alfred.

Wright noted the play is a lot to “sink your teeth into.” As Josephine, she’s really playing different characters.

“I get to play her as this aristocratic person who has everything at her disposal but still isn’t fulfilled, but then I also get to play her pretending to be someone who doesn’t have money,” she said. “So I get to play like three characters in the first act.”

In “Summer Share,” time shifts to the 1980s, when two couples vacation together in a house in the Hamptons. Joy Martin and Matt Wade, secondary characters in “Little Comedy,” take center stage in Act II as Barb and Sam. Barb is married to Lenny (Lewis) and Sam is married to Monica (Wright).

“It has a very 1980s feel to it, which is fun,” Lewis said.

Lewis said working with Wright has been a “dream.”

“She’s a dream to work with and I mean that truly,” Lewis said. His first show at CST was “Kiss Me Kate,” in 2007, which featured Wright. “I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to work opposite her and now six years later I’m getting to do it.”

For Wright, who grew up on the CST stage and who now lives in New York, working with this small cast has been a thrill.

“It’s a lot of monologues and a lot of really interesting and challenging music,” she said. “It’s just a big step outside of myself and so it’s great as an artist because I’m very much forced to grow.”

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