Love Can Never Be Depressing - Old Love New Love Ends Luna Stage's 2015-2016 Season

Left to Right: Claire McClanahan, Kim Zimmer, Ava Eisenson, Thomas Molyneaux.  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

Left to Right: Claire McClanahan, Kim Zimmer, Ava Eisenson, Thomas Molyneaux.  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

By Patricia Rogers

Sadly, the 2015-2016 season at Luna Stage theater has come to an end with the much-anticipated world premiere of Laura Brienza's Old Love New Love, a powerful and dense play exploring the lengths we will go for people we love.

But, I must remind you, love can never be depressing.

On this particular evening, we were greeted by Luna’s resident dramaturg Kaitlyn Stilwell.  She talked about how long Laura’s play was on their shelves, waiting to be produced.  The play was important to her and artistic director Cheryl Katz.  Its content needed to see the stage.  After a successful Indiegogo campaign, Old Love New Love is here, and it was beautiful.

Old Love New Love examines the many different facets of having love for another human being.  Whether the love was old, or new, familial, romantic, from the past or hopes for the future, love never lessens in its presence throughout the play, giving us a chance to see the many different faces of relationships and the capacity of the human heart.  What does it take to forgive and move forward after struggles and failed expectations for the future?

Alfred Gingold and Kim Zimmer.  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

Alfred Gingold and Kim Zimmer.  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

Old Love New Love is dense with topics worthy of discussion — mental illness, cancer, elder love and sexuality, infidelity, forgiveness, and most of all it reminds us that life is empty without love.  In a smallish town, in a smallish city, a modern family deals with overcoming the struggles of sickness in a family.

Kim Zimmer as Gloria was a delight, and her character’s love for her husband Colin, played by Thom Molyneaux, was admirable.  I do not know if I would have the kind of strength it took for her to do what she did for him.  I think her act of selflessness in the end, is the epitome of true love; wanting that person you love to be happy, no matter the circumstances.  And sadly at the end of their days, happiness may not be with you.

Kim Zimmer (Gloria) and Thomas Molyneaux (Colin).  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

Kim Zimmer (Gloria) and Thomas Molyneaux (Colin).  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

When you marry someone you truly love, you take those vows and you mean them when you say them.  You want to be together forever, through sickness and in health.  But what if that happens sooner than expected and looks like nothing we imagined?  Do you give up on love?  Gloria married a man that was ten years older than her, not uncommon, but in the play we can see how this can become an issue later on.  Through sickness and in health (well the sickness affecting this happy marriage is Alzheimers), Gloria has to suffer along with her husband as he forgets who she is and falls in love with another woman, Lane.

Alfred Gingold and Jane Mandel (Lane).  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

Alfred Gingold and Jane Mandel (Lane).  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

Lane, played by Jane Mandel, is a former surgeon and is also suffering from Alzheimers.  Her husband, Danny, was forced to put her there (in assisted living) once her disease got worse.  With Mandel’s performance and character, you can see how frustrating it was for such a smart and strong woman to be failed by her mental capacities.

Lane and Colin were able to find love in assisted living, a connection that proves to be a positive influence on their quality of life, towards the end of it.  I see it was the better outcome of what could be a totally negative situation.  Colin and Lane are two people who can relate to each other right now like no one else can, well except maybe their significant others Gloria and Danny.

Talk about failed expectations, Danny and Gloria having to deal with the fact that their longtime partners are happy to end their days with someone else.  A daughter, who has to be strong for her mother and father but deep down is still the little girl who does not want to see the realities of marriage. And soon, she is the one who needs the strength to move forward and find it in her heart to forgive.

Various traumas have affected every member of this family.  After a stressful time husband, makes a big mistake, we don't know if Michelle can be as forthcoming as her mother Gloria.  We can not help but like Matt.  The love he has for his wife, daughter and even her family never wavered.

Christopher Halladay and Claire McClanahan.  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

Christopher Halladay and Claire McClanahan.  Photo by Christopher Drukker. 

As the two lead female characters, who began to feel like my own family, go though this nightmare and adjust to their new realities, Gloria and Michelle’s mother-daughter bond got even stronger — the both of them always offering supporting advice and being the shoulder to lean on.  With the help of nurse, Mia, they are able to do their best they can with Colin.  Mia, played by Ava Eisenson, was a heartwarming, rational voice in the play.  She turned out to be a complicated character but was a never-ending support for the family. 

As always, the set design and sound was superb.  As I watched, there were times I felt I was not at a play.  I was in the house with this real family watching the drama of their lives unfold in a real and, most of the time, hard ways.  As I saw the connections, distance, and reconnections I could not help but think about loved ones that I should probably call more.  Time is short and you never know when you are going to lose someone, to a disease or to another person.

This time, the Context Room gave attendees a peek into the journey towards a world premiere.  Brienza, inspired by a number of personal experiences and observations, wrote the first draft of Old Love New Love in 2011.  The access that plays Gloria talked about the challenging and rewarding experience of being a part of a world premiere. There were changes made up until the previous Friday.  I must say, the finished product was superb.

The world premiere of Old Love New Love was a sweet ending to the season and leaves us excited for Luna’s 24th season.  Kaitlyn shared that this upcoming 2016-2017 season has three world premieres and familiar writers and faces.  You can read articles on Tall Girls, Thrill Me and The Brothers Size at masConsumption.com.  If you become a member of Luna Stage now, you can enjoy an early bird special for the 2016-2017 season. Purchase or renew your season pass by May 8th and save 33% off the single ticket price!

Go hug someone you love!

About the Writer

Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District.  The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more.  She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, and Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services.  Visit her blog www.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @valleygirl_nj (Twitter / Instagram).