A Love Story on Staten Island

13 May
May 13, 2013

For an older audience the memory of first love carries with it a soft nostalgia. That sweet lifting of the heart is the leitmotif of a delicate new play, Raise Me Up, now having its world premiere at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Playwright Lisa Phillips Visca has brought to the stage the love story of her mother and father and how those two prevailed over both sets of parents who didn’t want them to marry. The reason: he was Italian and she was Greek. It was the early 1950s. He, Louis (Michael Marinaccio, a Gene Kelly look-alike), had come back from the war and was about to marry a girl he suddenly had doubts about. She, Rosita (Serena Dolinsky), was a young aspiring model who, like him, lived on Staten Island. So the Staten Island ferry was their romantic meeting spot. (What’s more romantic than a sea

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voyage?) It was love at first sight. And proceeded in short order to dinner with his parents and then with hers. A disaster in both homes. His father, a soft-spoken, undershirt-at-the-dinner-table sort of man played by John Del Regno, is completely dominated by his screechy, booming wife, Lenora May, a table-smacking harridan with a dreadfully labored Italian accent. Her father, the always-marvelous Stuart Pankin, was a once-wealthy lawyer in Greece who isn’t able to practice in America. He is under pressure from a younger lawyer (Joey Shea) who will hire him only if Rosita will go out with him. Rosita’s classy mother (Evelyn Rudie) stands quietly by while Rosita weighs her love for Louis against the well-being of her father, who would have to return to Greece if he can’t secure a job in America. (It is Rudie’s husband, co-Artistic Director Chris DeCarlo, who directs this 10-person ensemble.) Since you already know that playwright Visca is telling the story of her parents and their lifelong love affair, there isn’t much mystery involved in this simple tale. But it will surely please those who have been in love for a long, long time. Raise Me Up will continue at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, in Santa Monica Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 through June 23. Call 310-394-9779 for tickets. Photo: Lenora May and her two sons, Mitch Lerner and Michael Marinaccio Photo by I.C. Rapoport

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