Footlights Theatre has a knack for bringing interesting work by lesser-known authors to its performance space in Falmouth. Both comedies and dramas (not to mention the occasional musical) fill its busy schedule with work that might not otherwise be seen locally.

“Shedding Light,” the theater’s latest production, delivers some laughs, particularly in the early going. But as the 75-minute play unfolds, some timely subjects are given a serious going-over in an engrossing way by the two-person cast.

The story concerns a conversation that develops after the power goes out in the New York City apartment of a 50-something, upper middle-class Jewish woman on the eve of Y2K. She and a younger, African-American repairman who has come to fix her cable TV service gradually develop an intimacy of sorts. Their talk, illuminated by candlelight, gets cozy, then progressively uncomfortable as issues of race and religion rise to the surface through the well-crafted dialogue by writer Rich Orloff.

There’s not a lot of physical action around the nicely detailed living room set. But the stories the characters tell and their efforts at understanding provide dramatic momentum that takes the audience into both the familiar and unfamiliar corners of their worlds.

Michael J. Tobin, director and all-around tech-man for this powerful work, has drawn two very capable actors into inhabiting their roles in a way that raises both individual and collective issues in a thoughtful and compelling way.

At Saturday’s matinee, local theater veteran Jackie Oliveri gave a strong and nuanced performance as Marcie Scheinman, whose experience as a wife, mother, liberal activist and uncertain believer has filled her with questions about the lonely state in which she finds herself. Oliveri got to the core of her character’s agonizing quandary in a convincing way by subtly balancing her measured assertiveness with an emotional reaching out.

Khalil Lesaldo, as repairman Ray Foster, kept his character wary of his customer’s insistent pursuit of answers to big and quite personal questions. He doubts her ability to understand where he comes from, but in a couple of revelatory monologues that brought Lesaldo’s performance to life, he lets Marcie know about the sources of the anger she correctly senses within him. Lesaldo skillfully suggested Foster’s hard-won pride with a clipped delivery that he gradually relaxed to let his character’s vulnerabilities emerge.

This timely work packs a lot into its one act and, appropriately, no easy answers emerge. It’s clear Footlights has hit a high point with this one.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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