“I’m a communicator,” Molly tells us from the get-go, and is she ever. Played by Kate Walsh with driven energy to spare, she’s never at a loss for words in Stephen Belber’s engaging “Dusk Rings a Bell” at Atlantic Stage 2. But neither is she a slave to truth, especially when it comes to talking her way out of a difficult situation. She is, after all, in public relations.
On a personal odyssey of sorts, Molly returns to Bethany Beach, where she spent her teenage summers. By chance she meets Ray (Paul Sparks), whom she spent an afternoon kissing on a lifeguard chair 25 years earlier. He lacks her facility with language, speaking directly and without spin. He reveals having spent 10 years in prison for his role as an inactive accomplice to a murder.
The exchanges between Molly and Ray are breathtaking in their integrity. Belber has created very specific individuals, likable and flawed, with idiosyncratic vocabulary and speech patterns. Directed with exquisite economy by Sam Gold, Walsh and Sparks masterfully mine details of personality to define two different versions of loneliness. The contrast between and the coming together of their styles is fascinating, and the irony that the ex-con is the more honest of the two, while not groundbreaking, is nonetheless telling.