St. Pete Catalyst Interview w/ Bill De Young; Stephanie Dunnam and Patrick Ryan "Rose and Walsh" Now at freefall Theatre
Originally published as Rose’s Dilemma, the 2003 play was the last – probably – from the prolific pen of the late New York scribe. The title characters are celebrated novelists, looking at the endgame of, in Sullivan’s words, lives well-lived.
Death does not take a holiday in Rose & Walsh, which uses as a fulcrum the witty back-and-forth between the older and maybe-wiser longtime lovers and confidantes.
“Obviously toward the end of Neil Simon’s life, he was thinking about a life well-lived of his own, and he was writing about death,” observed Sullivan. “He was writing about what love is at death, and as partners in life how we deal with each other, heading towards that doorway.”
Sullivan, who’s appeared in a half-dozen freeFall shows over the years, was quick to assert that Rose & Walsh is anything but sad. “I don’t find it that sentimental of a piece,” he said. “I do think that it’s very clever and very hopeful.”
Both performers have extensive Broadway credits – Sullivan in 42nd Street, Beauty and the Beast and Titanic, Dunnam in The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig – and have appeared in numerous TV episodes.
Bread and butter, though, is work in regional theaters around the country.
Dunnam, whose sole previous freeFall role was as Eleanor of Aquitaine in 2019’s The Lion in Winter, said she was thrilled when artistic director Eric Davis asked her to be a part of Rose & Walsh.
“I really feel the family here at freeFall,” she observed. “Theater’s like that, generally speaking, anyway, especially smaller theaters. I think when you get really big, Broadway – as Patrick and I have talked about – it can have a little bit of that cold show business feel.
“But freeFall is a real family. And I’m so grateful they consider me a member of the family.”
Like all of Neil Simon’s plays, Rose & Walsh is verbose. There are a lot of words – but, Simon being Simon, they’re all gold, Jerry.
In the script, Sullivan said, “He’s having somebody describe my character, and saying ‘His rhythms are something that Mozart would envy,’ and he (Simon) is basically writing about himself.
“Neil Simon’s rhythms are difficult. He reverses the way we would naturally say a sentence. He’ll reverse it and put the important part at the end. Where I think we’d want to say the important part first. And the rhythms are just so musical.”
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