Jay D. Hanagan’s wonderfully endearing two-hander “First Kisses,” a humorous and touching love story spanning 60 years and a memorable finalist in the 2003 Dayton Playhouse FutureFest, receives a terrific staging courtesy of the senior-themed theater troupe Young at Heart Players at the Dayton Playhouse.
Annie Pesch and J. Gary Thompson are delightfully cast as Mary and John, childhood friends who blossom into spouses while sharing the intimacy of a shack in the woods where they converse and reflect. Portraying a range of ages from 11 to 72 would appear to be a challenging or daunting task, but not for this talented and compatible duo. In fact, Pesch’s ability to vibrantly tap into her inner child with exuberant precociousness and playful spunk certainly aids in setting the correct tone in the opening minutes. Still, both actors bring impressive nuance and versatility to the proceedings, deftly directed by Young at Heart founder Fran Pesch. Thompson is particularly great in a scene which finds the emotionally reserved John finally expressing his love for Mary while hilariously tipsy. Annie, who memorably originated the role of Mary in the FutureFest staged reading also directed by Fran, notably ages gracefully throughout. She finds multiple opportunities to convey meaningful depth whether interpreting Mary’s uncertainties as a spouse or quietly absorbing a life well lived in her golden years. More importantly, Pesch and Thompson are equally captivating in the show’s finest and most dramatic scene involving Mary and John discussing the shakiness in their marriage centered on John’s desire to catch up with his ex-fiancé.
“First Kisses,” nicely accented by Fran Pesch’s set design, Sandy Lemming and Pesch’s costumes, and John A. Falkenbach’s lighting design, is a simple yet charming look at the power of love and the dedicated commitment it takes to make a relationship work and endure. By and large, Mary and John heartwarmingly prove first kisses can last a lifetime.
“First Kisses” continues through Sunday, June 11 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Act One: 40 minutes; Act Two: 50 minutes. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased at the door. Reservations can be made by calling Fran Pesch at (937) 654-0400. For additional information, visit www.youngatheartplayers.com. Patrons are advised the production contains some adult language.