Love is in the air this weekend as the Passion for Acting Theatre Company and WILLow LeaVes of Hope present “Crossing Delancey” at 7 p.m. Friday.  

The 1988 film of the same title, staring Amy Irving and Peter Reigert, was the inspiration for choosing the nearly two-hour long stage play that is set in 1980s New York, says the play’s producer Connie Kiviniemi-Baylor.

Baylor, who also plays the role of Grossman’s grandmother Bubbie Kantor, describes the production as “a delightfully sweet romantic comedy.”

The play, originally written by Susan Sandler in the mid-1980s, centers around Isabelle Grossman, a young woman who has it all… except for love. Grossman has plenty of friends, a rewarding job, a nice apartment, and an infatuation with a famous author, who is the star of all her dreams. And then there’s her fiercely Jewish grandmother who is doing her best to play matchmaker.

“The characters were very delightful and very unique with very different personalities,” Baylor says. “So it is fun to see the actors develop those characters.”

Director Gregory Andis says the play is different than those normally produced at WILLow LeaVes as this one gives audience members a taste of the east coast.

“This play is unique because it is very New York and very, very Yiddish,” Andis says. “Most of the characters in it are lower eastside New York and they historically come from Jewish immigrants of the lower eastside.”

Andis admits many of the words and phrases are challenging for those not raised with the “decidedly northeast, lower Manhattan” accent. It’s been a great opportunity to get the actors to move outside their comfort zones, he says.

“That is a bit different, I think,” Andis says. “It gets actors to stretch a bit out of the Midwest.”

While maintaining a proper accent and not “falling back to south Hoosier” is challenging, Baylor says, “looking, moving and sounding like an 80-year-old feisty, but aching, Jewish grandmother has its own challenges. 

Although Andis is no stranger to the stage, this will be his first time directing a play at WILLow LeaVes. 

The most enjoyable part has been the process, he says, which began with the cast’s initial meeting the first week of January. 

Hope resident Pete Law returns to the WILLow LeaVes stage as Tyler Moss, an author who is more concerned with looks than substance.

“He is kind of manipulative,” Law says. “And a scumbag to a degree.”

Playing the role of such a polar opposite to oneself is challenging, Law says. 

“The most challenging thing has been trying to be in that moment with the characters,” he says. “Being in that moment and trying to be the star of a show in real life even though I’m really not, he thinks he is just that great.”

Law says the use of monologue is another element that makes this play stand out from others he’s been in before.

“And there are scenes that break into imagination, such as with a dream sequence where I tell Izzy I’m really into her,” he says. “Then, the next scene I pop in and she has fallen on the floor imagining I am going to whisk her away.”

With opening night just days away, Andis admits he is often disappointed when a show opens because he knows that means the end is near.    

He says working with such creative people as this cast has made the experience really enjoyable, he says.

“It’s the fact that we all trust and like each other and that we are friends,” he says. “I appreciate Connie. She has given up the reins on this one freely and entirely and that has given me lots of creative freedom.”

Like so many other performers, Law says he is simply thankful and looking forward to being on stage.

“We are very lucky we are one of the few places in the world who are performing anything,” he says. 

As the cast looks forward to opening night this weekend, all are hopeful for a great turnout. 

“It is just a really sweet story about two people who are struggling in the big city to find that special someone and ending up coming together,” Andis says. “I think people will walk away feeling warm and fuzzy and wouldn’t you want to on Valentine’s Day weekend?”