“There’s no fool like an old fool” is a phrase sometimes brought out when a senior male seeks romance. There are a thousand reasons, some valid and some not, why it’s not a good idea to try to fire up the old engine once again when time may not be on your side.

Eighty-year-old Ralph Bellini, the protagonist in Joe DiPietro’s “The Last Romance,” is more than willing to give it a try, though, when he spots Carol Reynolds walking her chihuahua one day. He turns on the charm with humor and persistence. The slightly younger Carol is at first reluctant to take him seriously. But she ultimately falls for the romantic Ralph and his tales of the “big emotions” of opera and the singing career he almost had.

As reviewed on opening night, director Linda Sturdivant has put together an excellent production of this bittersweet play.

Leonard (Skip) Clark and Paula Suttle fill the lead roles with that kind of spunk that is often found in late-life dramatic characters. Clark got a lot of the early laughs as his Ralph kidded and bantered his way past the defenses of this love interest who wonders why he’s “coming on” to her in the dog park.

Both leads established a credible chemistry while gradually revealing back stories that suggest the inevitable “baggage” that older folks sometimes wish would get lost in transit. Religion, family, health, economics – all can conspire to set limits.

Gretchen G. Wood plays Ralph’s protective live-in sister Rose who’s suspicious of her brother’s new “friend” and, for selfish and unselfish reasons, would like to keep him to herself. Wood handled her scold-with-a-heart-of-gold character with style and got to reveal a bit of Rose’s own history along the way.

The operatic theme was augmented impressively through periodic appearances by Jason Phillips as the young Ralph. Hearing Phillips sing snippets of grand arias with piano accompaniment by Sara Sturdivant was a treat and reminded one that the venerable City Theater was originally known as an opera house (and still maintains very good acoustics).

Dog lovers will be pleased to know that canine thespians are represented in this production by Munchie, playing Carol’s wayward pet.

One could argue that the author was a little hard on these characters in, so to speak, putting them in their chronological places. Regardless, this is a well-acted, funny and touching show that should not be missed.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.