Playwright Sarah Ruhl has been a Pulitzer Finalist on several occasion, and has been a recipient of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship. So, it is no wonder that her romantic comedy, "Stage Kiss," is such a delight. It is clever, fast-paced and insightful about the complexities of love - both on and off stage.
The two main characters are simply called She and He - a strong signal from Ms. Ruhl that their struggles have universal application. As She, the enormously talented Celeste Oliva arrives on stage like a whirling dervish looking for a place to land. She is a frenetic actress late for an audition and frazzled beyond belief. Despite her concerns and foibles, she books the part, and returns to the stage after a long hiatus. She is shocked to learn that her leading man (Alexander Platt) is her ex-lover, from whom she had a painful breakup. Their initial attempts to navigate the turbulent waters of a stage kiss are hilariously awkward. Those kisses become more prolonged as they discover that, despite the baggage they carry, they still care for each other. But She is married, and He has a girlfriend from Iowa! Complications ensue.
The chemistry between Ms. Oliva and Mr. Platt is palpable, which makes their dilemma believable and relatable. The arc of the narrative goes from the comical and ridiculous to the sublime and touching. Along the way, the playwright asks us to consider the nature of commitment in marriage, forgiveness, and drawing clear boundaries when they may have previously been blurred.
The excellent Ms. Oliva and Mr. Platt are joined by a stellar cast comprised of:
- Will McGarrahan as the oblivious director, Adrian Schwalbach. He is hilarious as he stumbles around trying to offer meaningful direction to his two lead actors.
- Michael Hisamoto is perfectly cast in multiple roles, including an understudy whose overly literal interpretation of the Meisner Method of acting makes him look ridiculously robotic.
- Craig Mathers plays the role of longsuffering husband to She with grace and dignity.
- Theresa Nguyen plays several characters named Mille, as well as She's daughter, Angela. In that role, she is a petulant and very angry teenager who is not afraid to confront her mother with the damage she is doing to the family by her selfish mid-life crisis.
- Gillian Mackay-Smith is spot on with her accent and affect of the school teacher from the Quad Cities. She had been ready to move in with He until he microwaved what was left of his relationship with She, and things that had been stale got hot again.
|Will McGarraghan as Adrian Schwalbach|
Celeste Oliva as She
Alexander Platt as He
Michael Hisamoto as Pimp
"Stage Kiss" by Sarah Ruhl
Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Through March 26th
Photo by Mark S. Howard