By GUY D’ASTOLFO
“Can You Hear Me?,” a dark comedy written by Warren playwright Brian Lee, will return to the stage this weekend and next at Rust Belt Theater’s Calvin Center venue.
Lee wrote the play in 1995, and if first was presented soon after in excerpted fashion at Youngstown State University’s blackbox theater in Bliss Hall. In 1998, Trumbull New Theatre in Niles — where Lee is most active as a director and actor — staged the full play.
“Can You Hear Me?” is a two-person play, a man and a woman who are staying in adjoining solitary-confinement cells in a state hospital for the criminally insane. In getting to know each other, they reveal their life stories, and their eventual mental deterioration is laid bare.
“It’s more dark than comedy,” said Lee.
Craig and Liz Conrad, who are married in real life, play the two roles. Lee is the director.
“Can You Hear Me?” was awarded the Best Original Script prize by the Ohio chapter of the American Association of Community Theaters in 1999. Lee also has won awards for two other plays he wrote: the Ohio Community Theater Association’s playwright award for “Nightlight” and the Marquee Award for Best Original Script for “Family Reunion.”
In “Can You Hear Me?,” the two lead characters talk to each other but never see each other, because they are separated by a wall. In order to keep the sightlines clear for the audience, there is no actual wall on the stage.
The male character, Rick, never shuts up and does impersonations of famous people to keep himself occupied, said Lee. The female is a lot quieter and darker, and very disturbed. The two hate each other at first, but eventually realize they can’t do without each other.
“Can You Hear Me?” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and again May 16 and 17. Calvin Center is at 755 Mahoning Ave. Call 330-507-2358.