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A welcome ‘Snow’ falls at Playhouse

March 7, 2014 - Andy Gray
YOUNGSTOWN – In Stephen Metcalfe’s “Strange Snow,” Martha tells Megs, “You make me want to laugh and cry at the same time.”

The same could be said of the play they inhabit.

Director Christopher Fidram and his three actors make perfect use of the intimacy of the Moyer Room theater space at the Youngstown Playhouse. At times the show feels more like eavesdropping on a private moment than watching a performance.

The three characters all are walking wounded. Megs (Timothy Thomas) and David (C.H. Kettering) served together in Vietnam. David lives in the same house he grew up in and tries to drink away the memories of the war and the promising life he had in high school that never came to fruition.

Megs seems to be dealing with his war memories better when he shows up early one morning to drag David out for the first day of fishing season. But he’s also seems a little too manic, like he’s trying too hard to over compensate for something. And there are quick flashes of rage that hint at troubles Megs is not willing to admit.

Then there’s David’s sister Martha (Liz Conrad), who hasn’t seen combat but carries plenty of emotional scars and insecurities from feeling unloved and undesirable, feelings that only are reinforced by living with an emotionally detached sibling who treats her like a maid.

Megs’ arrival brings out the worst in David, in part because he brings back memories of their dead war buddy Bobby but also because Megs’ eagerness seems to spark something in Martha. Maybe he’s being protective or maybe misery loves company and Martha is starting to seem less miserable with Megs around.

“Strange Snow” has three characters, one set and unfolds over a 24-hour period. Fidram lets it play out as a series of dramatic pas de deuxs as David and Megs confront their war experiences, as Megs’ presence forces Martha and David to address the tensions between them and as Megs and Martha both try to forget their pasts and tentatively dance toward a chance at some happiness in the present.

Despite the serious tone, there is plenty of humor in the script, much of it delivered by Thomas as Megs. He brings an energy to the early scenes that is vital to the success of the show. He’s funny, but he’s never a clown. His anxieties, his insecurities always are evident in the performance. And when he gets quiet, speaking just above a whisper to David about the war and what it did to them, he is riveting.

Conrad is heart-breaking and touching as a woman hardened by a grim acceptance of what her life has become. Her wariness at the sometimes awkward flirtations of Megs captures the emotions of a woman more worried about getting hurt again than hopeful that anything else is possible.

Kettering has less dialogue than the other two actors but makes David a looming presence, even when passed out on the couch. His anger is more on the surface than the other two characters, but he makes David’s pain just as deep.

“Strange Snow” opened last weekend, and only three performances remain. It’s a show not to be missed.

“Strange Snow” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Youngstown Playhouse, 600 Playhouse Lane. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and senior citizens. For reservations or more information, call 330-788-8739.


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