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Theater review: 'Southern Comforts' at International City Theatre

March 25, 2011 | 12:26 pm

Southern The ideal relationship, as spelled out everywhere from the Bible to the daytime talk shows, is built upon the notion of two people coming together as one.

Beautiful idea, tricky math. For 1 + 1 to equal 1, each party must negotiate, compromise and, sometimes, sacrifice.

"Southern Comforts" playfully lays out these challenges while telling a gently comic tale about a sunset-years romance. It's a sweet little story, good for a few chuckles and an "aww" or two. It's been around since 1987 but caught a second wind after Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter performed it in Florida in 2006.

At International City Theatre, it's performed by two local favorites, Michael Learned and Granville Van Dusen, and directed by a third: Jules Aaron.

Gus, a New Jersey widower, is in the midst of a springtime chore when Amanda, an easy conversationalist and sharp dresser, appears at his door on a church errand. A sudden rain keeps her there longer than expected; they bond.

Playwright Kathleen Clark none too subtly scatters obstacles in their path: differences in personality, firmly set routines. Fortunately, the players are pros. Van Dusen has an amusing way of burrowing defensively into his recliner, eyes darting with panic, whenever Amanda puts him on the spot. Learned's crisp, deadpan delivery makes clear who will win these skirmishes.    

Because it's so very obvious where the story is headed, one longs for a bit more tension and a tad more propulsion, but there's only so much that even these talented theater-makers can do. Like any relationship, this one has its ups and downs.

-- Daryl H. Miller

"Southern Comforts," International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 10. $37 and $44. (562) 436-4610 or Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Photo: Michael Learned and Granville Van Dusen get to know each other in "Southern Comforts." Credit: Carlos Delgado