Love swirls around Leona Samish, the lonely American secretary in Arthur Laurents’ comedy “The Time of the Cuckoo” — in a nuanced, delightful production at the Schoolhouse Theater in Croton Falls.
It laps the ancient walls along the canal, whose waters are reflected in light that shimmers on the pensione.
It’s right there, in the young American couple, Eddie and June Yaeger (Billy Lyons and Ashlie Robinson). Of course, the intense Eddie’s concept of love is more practical and looser than June’s rigid, romantic idea.
Love is also there in the retired Americans, Mr. & Mrs. McIlhenney (David Licht and Ruth Reid), on a European fling, laden with treasures. He’s more curmudgeonly, she’s more demure, but it’s love, just the same: a more comfortable, settled love.
The boarding house’s song-slaughtering domestic, Giovanna (Aileen Lanni), who can’t carry a tune, carries a torch for her unseen boyfriend.
Her boss, Signora Fioria (Carmen Lamar), loves, too, in her own particular and pragmatic way.
Even the opportunistic street urchin, Mauro (Jacob Roger-Gordon), loves the challenge of separating tourists from their cash.
Is it any wonder that the vacationing Leona — a quirky, painfully lonely woman “well in her thirties” — is anxious to shake off her staid secretarial life and gulp a life romantic?
In the capable hands of Tessa Zugmeyer, Leona is flesh and blood, by turns optimistic, trodden upon and brave. She has pored over the guide books — “the book says it’s great,” she declares — and calls strangers “cookie,” a suggestion of familiarity that is lacking in reality.
Zugmeyer, unforgettable in two Schoolhouse turns as Agnes in “Dancing at Lughnasa,” turns on a dime here, finding Leona’s lonely depths only to stiffen her upper lip and soldier on valiantly.
Leona is trying too hard — and it’s hard not to fall in love a little with someone who wears her heart so far down her sleeve that it reaches her cuff. Every fiber of Leona’s body seems to scream “want me, notice me.”
When a local merchant, Renato De Rossi (Kevin Albert), does just that, it throws Leona.
De Rossi’s advice, “relax and the world is beautiful,” only gets Leona so far, and soon she runs headlong into cultural differences that put her happiness — and her idea of love — in peril.
Nothing is easy in this clear-eyed and unsentimental romantic comedy, which some may recall from its 1955 film incarnation, “Summertime,” starring Katharine Hepburn and Rosanno Brazzi (a few years before his turn as Emile de Becque in “South Pacific”).
Director Pamela Moller Kareman keeps the pace leisurely — there’s no rushing in this little corner of Venice — and it suits the piece. Kimberly Matela puts Zugmeyer in one gossamer dress after another, evoking another place and time.
Jason Bolen’s spectacular vine-covered set — all louvered doors and shutters with arches and levels aplenty — is strung with festive lights and bathed in the warm glow of David Pentz’s lighting plot, including a nifty reflection from the unseen canal.
There’s plenty to love about “The Time of the Cuckoo.”
“The Time of the Cuckoo,” Schoolhouse Theater, 3 Owens Road, Croton Falls. Through Dec. 4. 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m., Sundays. $33 on Thursdays and Fridays, $35 on Saturdays and Sundays. 914-277-8477. Go to the Schoolhouse Theater website.
Photo by Ron Marotta: Tessa Zugmeyer as Leona Samish.