CRESTVIEW — On the surface, "Dear Ruth," playing through Saturday night at Crestview High School, seems a straight-forward 1940s romantic comedy.
But there's much more to playwright Norman Krasma's World War II-era tale, and our young thespians tackle its subtleties with skill.
Particularly admirable are leads Jill Cumbia as Ruth Wilkins, and Wesley Barlow as her U.S. Army Air Corpsman pen pal, Lt. Bill Seawright.
Both handled an especially dramatic Act II scene — I won't spoil the plot — with heartfelt performances that defy their tender stage experiences.
Jill's Ruth is winsome, sympathetic and, like the old song says, "torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool."
As Bill, Wesley reminded me of Josh Hartnett in "Pearl Harbor," his emotions ranging between soaring lovesick optimism and dejection.
"All's fair in love and war, and I'm in both," Bill sighs.
As Albert, the stuffy, put-upon third leg in the romantic triangle, Walter Jagielski earns our respect for a character that often shouts volumes by doing little more than observing helplessly while a flyboy woos his fiancée.
"I have a deposit on a house and a church and a minister," Albert laments. "And I just shook hands with the man who's just become engaged to my fiancée. There's only so much flesh and blood can take."
Fine supporting performances include Megan Keiffer as Ruth's kid sister Miriam, the cause of her conundrum, and Michael Brooks and Katie Rocha as their parents, staid Judge Harry Wilkins and his stalwart wife Edith.
Angeles Alexander deserves applause as Dora, the patient maid whose frequent asides provide happy doses of comedy.
Jacob Smith, in his stage debut as Bill's B-26 bomber war buddy, Sgt. Chuck Vincent, is personable and likeable as he courts his lieutenant's sister, played prettily by Meagan Prestridge.
There was some distracting shuffling on stage during some scenes, which I wrote off to opening night jitters, and a few lighting and sound glitches.
The latter are good signs: The CHS theatre program conquered two perennial problems with its recent acquisition of a new audio system and a new spotlight. As the techies master their new equipment, I expect the few miscues will vanish.
"Dear Ruth" is a delightful evening of light, fluffy fare, complete with a wedding — maybe two? — and is well handled by an enthusiastic cast.
Why not add a fun night of live theatre to your day at the Main Street Crestview Association's Fall Festival?
Want to go?
WHAT: Norman Krasma's romantic comedy "Dear Ruth"
WHO: Crestview High School drama program and Thespian troupe
WHEN: 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Crestview High School Pearl Tyner Auditorium
TICKETS: $5, all seats, available at the door
Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.