Thursday, March 22, 2018
By ERIC MCCREA
The Youngstown Playhouse is no stranger to demanding plays that can address difficult issues.
Jane Martin’s “Keely and Du” is one such play. It was written in 1993 but proves to be relevant 25 years later. A strong cast performed it in the smaller Moyer Room space of the Playhouse, drawing in an engaged audience and leaving them haunted.
The lights come up on underground Christian fundamentalist Du, played by Molly Galano, in a sparse basement room, assuming custodianship of her group’s latest charge. An unconscious Keely, played by Candace DiLullo, lies handcuffed to a metal-framed bed while Du receives some parting instructions from her strict leader Walter (Matthew Mazuroski.) When Keely comes out of sedation, she is told that she is being held captive to prevent her from ending her pregnancy. Blackouts indicate the passage of time as Du watches over Keely, trying to make her as comfortable as possible. The two of them discuss their lives openly, but both stay true to their principles.
Intense subject matter and disturbing situations are prevalent in this ruthless drama, but director Pat Foltz handled it with reserved professionalism. She reined in the abrasiveness of the dialog, not relying on melodrama but allowing the story to carry weight.
Keely is a challenging role, physically and emotionally but DiLullo handled it incredibly. She showed unwavering commitment and spot-on interpretation. During conversational moments with Du, she fiercely clung to her disdain, eventually transitioning to purely vulnerable. Throughout, DiLullo bears the fear and ferocity of a caged animal, and she never lets down her guard.
Galano smoothed her edges in this role. She wisely avoided the fanatical character aspects that could be felt in her lines and instead focused on the maternal, humane aspects of Du. Galano treats Du like a person willing to go to extreme lengths, who isn’t necessarily an extremist.
Mazuroski was appropriately despicable as Walter. At times, he was quite clinical and unrelenting in his dogma, and other times, his flashes of anger betrayed the purity of his beliefs. He created a great contrast to Galano’s Du, giving her middle ground to explore. Brian Suchora made a capable showing as Cole. He’s appropriately slimy, but able to pull off the sincerity needed for the role. His very presence creates palpable tension, building to an inevitable explosion. Also appearing briefly was Kelli Nicole as a Guard. She did a fine job, subtle and natural, with the little she was given to work with. This play addresses mature subject matter, including rape, kidnapping, religion, and most centrally, abortion. These topics, and on-stage adult situations, make it inappropriate for young audience members.
SDLqKeely and Du” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday at the Playhouse, off Glenwood Avenue. For reservations, call 330-788-8739 or go to theyounsgtownplayhouse.com