It’s more than likely that when we see a passionate kiss on stage or screen, few of us stop to wonder whether the actors concerned even like each other, let alone whether any warm or friendly feelings – much less passion – are involved.
Spare a thought, then, for the two leading characters in Stage Kiss – the latest production by San Francisco Playhouse. Not only are they playing a pair of actors – in a rather frightful 1930s play, The Last Kiss – who discover that they’re former lovers, but when said leads first meet at rehearsal for this production, they discover that they, too, are former lovers! So we have two former lovers playing the roles of two former lovers. This play within a play could lead anywhere – which it does – and it proves to be both thought provoking and an absolute delight!
Playwright Sarah Ruhl – recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award nominee for the 2009 Broadway show In The Next Room – has a wonderful sense of fun, and of timing, and director Susi Damilano makes the most of both, as the play moves along at a pace, jumping from fact to fantasy and back again, without missing a beat, and certainly without missing a laugh – of which there are plenty.
Susi has assembled a superb cast. Carrie Paff as the slightly neurotic and typically theatrical She (in both plays), and Gabriel Marin as the lovestruck He (in both plays) are simply splendid as they carry the audience along through the twists, turns and double-turns of the action. Mark Anderson Phillips is marvelously melodramatic as the Director, and Allen Darby ably spreads himself across his four roles, most impressively as the rather precious understudy, Kevin, (primly getting on with his knitting during rehearsals!).
They’re strongly supported by Michael Gene Sullivan as Her long-suffering Husband, by Taylor Iman Jones as a somewhat saucy maid, and the rather truculent Daughter, by Millie DeBenedet in the dual role of Her ‘bosom buddy’ and His deliciously dotty lover – you’ll have to see the play to work that lot out – and by the production team who appear to be having as much fun as the rest of us. Once again, Bill English – with Jacquelyn Scott – works wonders with his stage design and set changes.
Stage Kiss runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until January 9th – highly recommended for an evening of fun – and a touch of introspection – during the holiday season. For more information, and tickets, visit www.sfplayhouse.org