VALENTINE’S LAST DANCE
Valentine’s Day is the most important date on the calendar… even before Christmas or the Fourth of July. — Caroline
Four women in South Carolina get together the night before Valentine’s Day, to discuss the last minute details of a grand party they are organizing. At the helm on this occasion is the matriarch, Miss Valentine (the wonderful Shelly Day) gathers the ladies together for drinks, and to enjoy a large spread of delicious Southern cuisine— chicken and sausage gumbo, seasoned greens, fried green tomatoes, red beans & rice, black eyed peas and lots of salacious talk. In between bites of flavorful food, Caroline (Destiny Fletcher Dwyer) is the first to arrive. She had an earlier appointment with attorney Mark Kolinsky (Damian Dwyer) who put Wayne Wellington, Caroline’s former lover, in jail for fraud. Now, she’s feeling the loneliness of being without Wellington and that hurts her soul and body. She lets Mark knows this, even though he dismisses what she says. The conversation doesn’t end so well. Jolynn (the lovely Michelle Redman making her debut) comes in with her homemade pecan peach cobbler. Pamela (Alex G-Smith) rounds off the group.
The ladies briefly discuss their current love situation while enjoying their delicious meal. Jolynn has a son with her partner Robert. Inquisitive, Pamela asks how the relationship is going. Joylnn, with a deep sigh, says “Robert and I ain’t married, but we have an understanding.” Miss Pamela gives the impression that she and Duke, her man, have a similar understanding. You need to read between the lines to find out the true meaning behind each other’s statement. Southern women hint when talking. They don’t reveal the whole scope on what’s going on with them.
Out of all the ladies, it seems that Caroline is the one who has suffered many a heartbreak. She’s somewhat bitter, a bit condescending and, yet, wants to be loved with a passion. Valentine reminisces about her long marriage to her late husband Jeffrey. It wasn’t always roses and rainbows, but they shared a deep connection that solidified their union. She converses with his picture for comfort and to stay close. It’s like he never truly left.
Ms. Fletcher Dwyer does an excellent job in writing a beautiful script with distinct personalities and colorful southern wisdom— “Why Jo Lynn, you look like you were just punched in the stomach and swallowed a frog. Are you alright? “Caroline asks the solemn Joylynn. Miss Valentine responds with equal fervor, “well butter my behind and call me a biscuit!”
There’s something so poetic and picturesque about Southern sayings sounds good. Hell, even an insult sounds like a damn compliment! I enjoyed watching and hearing the women relate to one another. They talk and advise and tease with sensitivity. No cruelty or tacky words are said. The men provide that boost of testosterone which dives a bit deeper into these ladies’ hearts.
Jeffrey Jean Fleming (George Oliver Hale) is the template of what a Southern man should be. He’s smart, handsome, educated, impeccable manners and comes from a wealthy family. Once an arrogant braggart, he calmed down after finding his soul mate. Xavier (Leon Acord) a good looking young Southerner is also Pamela’s love who got away. Instead of being his wife, she chose Duke and that had changed the course of her life. For Caroline, her “one that got away,” is Mark. This explains her regret and sorrow for not having him.
These Southern women are a testament to what true love is all about. Not money (although it does help) not prestige or having clout. These women, all women, deserve a love that is loyal, truth worthy and more importantly long lasting. Miss Valentine exemplifies the latter, the way she talks about her late husband Jeffery and how they made each other feel. The other women could learn a lot from this grand dame. As a collective, each woman value each other and care for one another. It’s this strength that makes them strong and tender, simultaneously, without feeling defeated or lost.
Valentine’s Last Dance, plays at Hudson Mainstage Theatre, located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood., plays tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday the 12th at 2 p.m. Running time is 2 hours, there will be one 15-minute intermission. Masks are required.