Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Stage Kiss -- Playwrights Horizons

Jessica Hecht and Dominic Fumusa. Photo: Joan Marcus
Art Imitates Life Imitating Art Imitating Life in Laugh-A-Minute Stage Kiss
By Lauren Yarger
Watching Stage Kiss, a new play from Pulitzer-Prize finalist Sarah Ruhl (Dear Elizabeth, In the Next Room, Dead Man's Cell Phone), made me want to seek out the playwright and give her a big kiss on both cheeks. I haven't laughed that much at a play since last year's Tony Award winner Vonya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang.

In fact, there is a lot to smile about in this play.

To start off, it's just funny. An actress known in the program only as She ( a commanding Jessica Hecht) gets a part in a really awful play:

"I want to kiss you all day!

"And I you—"

"Until I am breathless with desire. The way I was when I was eighteen. Do you remember the lake?"

"I think I hear your husband."

"Hang it all!"

"Oh, darling. How can we have been apart this long?"

"I do not know. I do not know....."

If that isn't bad enough, the man who has been cast as her lover in the overly melodramatic play is none other then He (Dominic Fumusa), her former lover in real life. The two try to be all professional and try to keep their growing passion a secret from the befuddled, passive-aggressive director (a riotous Patrick Kerr) and her steady, dependable banker husband (Daniel Jenkins), but the stage kisses called for in the script make it very difficult. The idea of having her passionate lover pull out of the role, leaving Her at the mercy of his nervous, gay understudy, Kevin (Michael Cyril Creighton), who comes in for some hysterically funny open-mouth landings for his kisses, just isn't an option, however. (Creighton is a hoot.)

The two finally succumb to their passions and move into His cramped, dive of an apartment, much to the distress of Her husband and daughter, Angela (Emma Galvin), and His gullible girl fiend from the Midwest, Laurie (Clea Alsip).

The happy endings of theater don't necessarily translate to real life, however, and some difficult choices and surprises await.

Though there is a lot of humor infused throughout the script (and kudos to Ruhl for being able to write bad dialogue for the awful plays withing the play -- it's harder than you think), there also is a lot of insight and Director Rebecca Taichman strikes a nice balance between the two. The characters aren't He and She by accident. They really are You and Me and express that something in all of us that longs to be loved and wants what we can't have.

Neil Patel designs the set, which does double duty as locations for the characters lives and the sets for the plays. In a nice effect, one of the sets fades away as new direction is found for a life.

A few tweaks might tighten the two-hour-and-10-minute production, especially in the second act. And a broken ankle suddenly doesn't seem to be broken at one point as the victim is able to walk around on it without a cast or any type of support. Other than that, this is one fun show. Check out the photo booth and the Kiss Wall in the lobby which add to the atmosphere. 

Stage Kiss plays at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC, has been extended through Apri 6. http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/stage-kiss/

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Two women kiss
-- Two men kiss
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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