Once-homeless actress bites into role in Carbondale | PostIndependent.com

Once-homeless actress bites into role in Carbondale

Will Grandbois

For one cast member, a small but significant role in Thunder River Theatre Company’s upcoming production of “The Last Romance” may be her best chance at a better future.

Charlie, a 3- or 4-year-old chihuahua, showed up at Colorado Animal Rescue three weeks ago with a broken pelvis, leg, toes and tail. CARE was able to connect her with Dr. Erick Egger of Valley Emergency Pet Care, who did needed surgery for free.

“We were immediately impressed with her and her sweet demeanor and obvious tolerance for pain,” said CARE Executive Director Wes Boyd. “I had been talking with Corey [Simpson, Thunder River director] about this collaboration, and we’d been hoping to feature a shelter dog. Her demeanor is perfect for stage, and she’s a survivor. She deserves a bit of fame in her life.”

After auditions for the role of Peaches — herself a rescue dog — Charlie came out on top. She’ll be fostered by Simpson for the course of the play, but remains up for adoption — assuming one of her fellow cast members doesn’t take her home first.

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“Obviously it’s our hope that she meets her forever home through her role in the play,” Boyd said. “It highlights the need for homes for shelter animals and showcasing their wonderful traits.”

Several other adoptable pets will also be at the theater Dec. 9.

After that, the show runs at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 16, 17, 22 and 23 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 and 24 at 67 Promenade in Carbondale. A series of performances are also slated for the Snowmass Chapel Jan 20, 21, 27 and 28. Tickets run $30 for adults, $20 for 20- and 30-somethings and $15 for students, and are available at thunderrivertheatre.com.

“The Last Romance” tells the story of two retirees who begin to fall in love during a series of humorous and heartwarming meetings at a New Jersey dog park. The cast includes performers Chip Winn Wells, Willie Moseley and Wendy Perkins, with baritone Chris Cascketta lending his voice for the Ralph Bellini who might have been.

Moseley’s Bellini, though, never got any further than an audition for the Met — though he still loves opera. A widower, he sees Peaches’ owner in the park one day and sets the play into motion.

“We both feel that this is our last chance,” he observed. “She is reluctant, and you don’t really know why until the end.”

Carol Reynolds, played by Perkins, is a former executive secretary with a strong sense of what’s proper.

“Her life is pretty empty right now, and she gives all her love and affection to the dog,” Perkins said. “The theme of the play is that it doesn’t matter how old you get, everybody has desires — but something can still get in the way.”

The show gains a bit of perspective from Ralph’s sister, Rose.

“She spent a lot of years believing that she didn’t matter and trying to find her identity in other people,” Wells said of her character. “She does remain hopeful, which is I think admirable.”

“People won’t see this on Netflix,” she added. “It has a story to tell and something to say, but it’s the emotions you’ll leave with, and those are yours for keeps.”

Director Mike Monroney agreed.

“The play as sweet and simple as it seems is actually really deep and complex,” he said. “It finds the humor in a senior romance without failing to honor it. There’s a resonance of entering into the autumn or perhaps even the winter of your life and what that means.

“These characters have all gone through a lot, and all a sudden there’s a ray of hope,” he added. “The ending is bittersweet, and there are several different interpretations about what happens after, but every single character is different than they were at the start.”

As for what Charlie’s brief appearance brings to the performance, he sees it as significant.

“The audience has been missing the dog the whole time, so there’s a real impact to actually physically bring the dog on stage,” he said. “In a sense she brings them together.”

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