Tipping Point Theatre is presenting the romantic comedy “Stella & Lou”, a story of two mature people who appear destined to live out their golden years alone. Lou (Will David Young) is a barkeep, the owner of the neighborhood watering hole that bears his name. Tending bar and managing its finances have been his whole life since his wife passed away two years ago.
Stella (Nancy-Elizabeth Kammer) is a divorced emergency room nurse who cared for Lou’s wife while she was in the hospital. She drops by the bar regularly after work to see how Lou is doing. But this night, so very close to the bar’s closing hour, Stella enters not wearing her usual scrubs, but attired in an attractive summery print dress.
They exchange the usual pleasantries, but there are more than pleasantries on Stella’s mind. It’s a showdown of sorts, a final attempt at letting Lou know that there could be something between them if he’d only open his eyes. She tells Lou there’s no longer any reason to stay in Philadelphia and that she’s considering hanging up the scrubs and moving to Florida where her grown kids and a grandchild live. She produces a gift certificate showing she’s won a trip for two to the casinos with dinner and a show, and she’s inviting Lou to go with her. All of which unnerves the usually even keeled bartender who has grown accustomed to Stella’s frequent visits. And so begins the cat and mouse game that’s “Stella & Lou”. It’s romance as practiced by the mature set, with Stella assuming the role of the cat.
Tipping Point has done everything right to make this production appealing. Director James R. Kuhl has cast two of our best local thespians in the roles of Stella and Lou. Will Young gives a fine performance as the disgruntled widower whose inability to make peace with his present keeps him mired in the past. Kammer is unassumingly coy as she does her best to maneuver around the emotional moat Lou has made to protect himself. In addition, Ryan Carlson makes a great comedic foil as the easily flustered Donnie, a Lou’s-Bar regular. Designer Lex van Blommestein’s set is friendly and inviting, with all those things that make Lou’s the place to be when you’re not at home, with a well-stocked bar, a dart board, and sports memorabilia covering the walls.
As pleasant as the whole production is, it’s just not enough to overcome playwright Bruce Graham’s script, which falls somewhere between lackluster and mediocre. Lou is utterly without romance. Donnie is filler, comedic relief for the play’s otherwise somber tone. Stella is frustrated and it’s not long before that frustration gets assimilated by the audience. Graham may have created the proper dance between the two with Stella in the lead but never really gives it the punch it deserves. And the dance consumes the whole of this 90 minute intermission-less play, having no resolve until the very final moment just before the stage lights go out.
Besides the great cast and welcoming set, “Stella & Lou’ is best enjoyed for those little asides a writer puts into his play when he’s a bit short on storyline or character development. Among them, there’s a eulogy delivered for a man that no one seems to like; what to do with a grand in hundred dollar bills discovered in an old greeting card; and an indecisive fiancé getting cold-footedly tipsy over his impending marriage.
“Stella & Lou” runs through June 26th. Tickets are available online at www.tippingpointtheatre.com or at the theatre’s box office which is open Mon. through Fri. 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 90 minutes prior to all performances. Tipping Point Theatre is located at 361 E. Cady Street in Northville, telephone number 1.248.347.0003.