Stephen Belber was one of the co-creators of The Laramie Project, the powerful verbatim play about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student in Wyoming, in 1998.
His new play, Dusk Rings a Bell, which was given its premiere by New York's Atlantic theatre company and arrives in Edinburgh via the HighTide Festival Theatre, returns to the theme of hate crimes, this time, though, wrapped up in an almost love story.
Molly (Abi Titmuss) is a 39-year-old divorcee who has returned the beach house of her childhood to retrieve a note she left there, aged 15, for her future self. On her way out she bumps into Ray (Paul Blair), a lonesome caretaker, with whom, it turns out, she had a summer fling 24 years ago. As they talk and talk (and talk, it's an overwhelmingly wordy play), shyly starting to court once more, it emerges that Ray has an unexpectedly murky past.
While it's never explained why Molly should fall for this gruff former felon, Belber's play asks interesting questions about the possibility of rehabilitation and the tricksiness of human communication. Titmuss and Blair both deliver strong, committed performances and every so often amid the torrents of talk there are lines and moments of real poignancy.
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