Stage Kiss is one of those play-within-a-play shows (actually two-plays-within-a-play), providing multiple levels and nuances for this great seven-person cast to play with under the sharp direction of Casey Stangl. As opposed to the character of the director, who doesn't seem to have a clue what he's doing in directing a 1930s flop called Last Kiss in a New Haven theater. He seems flummoxed whenever he's asked a question, and often talks about the "slippery" tone of the play, in which a wealthy married woman finds out she's dying, sends for her first love, and is reunited with him, only to watch him run away with her daughter. Complicating the rehearsal process is that the actors playing the woman and her lover are former lovers in real life, with some unresolved feelings about their relationship. The line between art and reality begin to blur as they find themselves drawn to each other, remembering why they fell in love so long ago, until they remember why they broke up. The play has some fantastical elements, as characters in the "reality" portion of the play step out to speak their feelings, or break out in song, while seeming perplexed that they're singing. There's nothing slippery about the tone of Stage Kiss, it's the humor of heightened reality.
|Todd Gearhart and Stacia Rice (photo by Joan Marcus)
|the cast of Stage Kiss as the cast of Last Kiss
(photo by Joan Marcus)
The Guthrie is a busy place this summer with the scrumptious smash hit The Music Man causing larger than usual crowds. I just hope that visitors to River City also check out the Guthrie's many other great offerings, Stage Kiss among them. While The Music Man is a heartwarming and overflowing production of a classic musical about small town America in the last century, Stage Kiss a very funny and modern new play that is an homage to the theater world we love so well (playing now through August 30).