Reviewed by Lee Shepherd
Bengt Ahlfors’ The Last Cigar, playing Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through July 29 at the Chenango River Theatre near Greene, is the perfect light summer theater fare — funny, farcical and entertaining.
Translated from the Swedish by Alan Goodson and making its North American premiere, the play is a sex comedy about old people, much appreciated opening night by the full house of theater-goers whose average age, I’m guessing, was 70. Don’t misunderstand: This is not a play with appeal solely to seniors. There’s much to be learned by the young theater-goer, too — that passion for life continues, without regard to age.
I cannot describe much of the plot, because that would ruin the surprises, but the bare bones outline is this: Ragnar (Jim Wicker), a recently retired school principal, feels life has passed him by. His wife, Anneli (Brigitt Markusfeld), nags him to lead a healthy life. He’s determined to smoke and drink and eat his way to an early death.
When he gets a terminal diagnosis, his wife relents, cooking him a cholesterol-rich pork loin dinner, buying him cigars and plying him with cognac.
Mix in the town pastor, Lars, a widower with some kinky sex practices (Michael Arcesi) and his daughter, Monika (Traci Crouch), who has returned home on the cusp of a divorce, and you’ve got grounds for setting some spicy plot turns and twists.
As in many of CRT productions, the cast is strong and thoroughly professional. Wicker is particularly good as Ragnar — funny, pitiable, even menacing when he needs to be. But there are no weak cast members; they play off each other effectively and believably.
The production crew does a bang-up job with lighting, costumes, set design and staging, under the direction of Bill Lelbach.
The choice of little-known plays and premieres works so well for this production company. You rarely recognize the play title going in, but you won’t forget it afterward.
IF YOU GO: Several performances already are sold out. For times and ticket information, visit
COMING UP: A musical, Honky Tonk Laundry, Aug. 9-Sept. 9, and Papermaker, Sept. 28-Oct. 14. One-night stands: Hard Traveling with Woody, July 17; Dead Shot Mary, Aug. 21.