The Young at Heart Players, Dayton’s only senior theater troupe, ushers in its second decade with a heartwarming and humorous production of Kathleen Clark’s 2006 two-hander “Southern Comforts,” presented in collaboration with the Dayton Theatre Guild.
Fluidly directed by YAHP founder Fran Pesch and set in a Victorian home in New Jersey circa 1996, “Southern Comforts,” as seen at its well paced final dress rehearsal, features very charming turns by Barbara Jorgensen and Greg Smith as Amanda Cross and Gus Klingman, a colorfully opinionated duo who learn to love again despite their personal and geographical differences. Clark predictably lays the groundwork for a happy ending in the first scene, but Jorgensen and Smith’s endearing chemistry and sharp characterizations keep the breezy action thoroughly engaging, particularly in the final minutes which provide touching closure.
Jorgensen effortlessly handles the casual ease and subtle complexities inherent in Amanda, a churchgoing chatterbox from Tennessee who loves baseball and still longs for romantic pleasures. She particularly shines with a captivating mix of anger and bewilderment late in Act 2 when Amanda grows perturbed and perplexed about Gus’ decision not to share a burial plot with her. As the strong-willed Gus, a New Jersey native still shaken by his late wife’s unhappiness and emotional detachment, Smith winningly reveals the inner struggle of a man reticent of losing his independence while genuinely longing for meaningful companionship. Although Gus totally desires a new chapter with Amanda, Smith astutely reiterates how difficult compromise can be.
“Southern Comforts” is intended for an older audience, but its tender sentiments and lasting reminder that all relationships must evolve and adapt has unlimited appeal.
Southern Comforts will be staged Friday, June 10 and Saturday, June 11 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 12 at 3 p.m. at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave. The play is performed in 90 minutes with one 15 minute intermission. Tickets are $12 for seniors and students and $15 for adults. For more information, visit www.daytontheatreguild.org