BIDDEFORD — “There’s no fool like an old fool” is a phrase sometimes brought out when an older man 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 that willing to give it a try, though, when he spots Carol Reynolds walking her chihuahua mix 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.

Director Linda Sturdivant has put together an excellent production of this bittersweet play, as performed on opening night.

Leonard “Skip” Clark and Paula Suttle fill the lead roles with the kind of spunk that is often found in late-life dramatic characters. Both performers return to the stage here after some time away from acting and both obviously relish the opportunity.

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.

Suttle has her Carol convincingly converting from having romantic reservations to making reservations for a romantic trip.

Both leads established a credible chemistry together 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 to letting go.

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 broad comic style and got to reveal a bit of Rose’s own sad history along the way.

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

Canine thespians are represented by Munchie, playing Carol’s wayward pet.

One could argue that the author was hard on these characters by pulling them out and then putting them back in their places in the end. 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.