Lovers: Winners and Losers

Rated 3.0 The Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre extends its penchant for Irish plays with this script by Brian Friel, best known here for Dancing at Lughnasa.

Lovers: Winners and Losers is a pair of short plays comparing the difficulties of falling in love at 17 vs. falling in love at 40-something.

The 17-year-olds are in the first half—they’re preparing for a high-school exit exam while simultaneously planning for their wedding; the baby on the way; and their new apartment, next door to a slaughterhouse. It’s little wonder these kids can’t focus on their books.

Friel’s script features imaginative verbal flights by Mag (Michaela Jones), who’s clearly too young to marry. Jones brings a good measure of girlish energy to the part.

Her fiancé, Joe (Benjamin Hanowell), is more realistic and is already beginning to regret that he’s settling into marriage, fatherhood and a dead-end job.

Woven throughout the lovers’ giddy and angry interplay is an increasingly dark narration that hints at an unexpected tragedy ahead.

The second half features Andy, a 40-ish working man (Keith Letl), who’s in love with Hanna (Georganne Wallace). Hanna’s bedridden mother keeps interrupting their lusty sofa sessions by summoning Hanna—though Andy attempts to distract Mum by loudly reciting verse while Hanna silently dresses him down.

But everything changes when Andy and Hanna wed, and he’s pulled into a dysfunctional, matriarchal family that reached stalemate long ago. Andy’s monologues on the topic are delightful, but director Stephen Vargo doesn’t get the larger scenes at Mum’s bedside to jell as smoothly as what came before.