Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Stage Kiss Blooms into Romance
Also see Rob's review of The Seagull
That's exactly what this play is about. Two actors scripted to act like they're in love sometimes do fall in love. The characters He and She have been cast as lovers in a play. The catch is that the two actors are former lovers from 20 years earlier. Clearly no resentment remains between them as they cheerily welcome the opportunity to work together. In the play, they share a stage kiss, and that's where the excitement and trouble begins.
She (a sparky and effervescent Marina Sage) has moved on to a family with an angst-ridden teenage girl (a wonderfully spiky Hannah Cooper). He, however, has remained more or less the same, plugging along with a lame acting career while living in a modest efficiency. His life may be humble, but it's just the escape She needs from the constraints of family. Shawn Patrick Boyd is solid and always interesting as He.
We end up with two plays. The first act is a near slapstick comedy playing out the ups and down of rehearsals for the play within a play. He and She are thrust together in intimacy after years apart. The romance in the drama spills over to real life. The second act plays out the impact of the renewed romance on her family. While still funny, it becomes a completely different story with its own theme and texture, less edgy, more rom-com. Both work, thanks to a sharp-witted script by Sarah Ruhl, one of a number of young women playwrights on the drama scene who have been snapping up writing awards over the past decade.
Director Matt Heath keeps the popcorn popping as the story moves through its fast pacing, with characters moving in and out of the scenes continually. The heart of the play is the heat between He and She. Sage and Boyd well deliver the passion and affection that's the heart of much of the play. Cooper, however, steels every scene she's in, with her pissed-off teenage fire. A nice counter-balance to the complications of lovers and family.
It's a terrific show save for some clumsiness in the script at the end of the last act when the crisp and sassy story goes sappy on us. Improbability takes over after the dramawhich is often belly-laugh funnyhas proceeded along reasonably plausible lines. Even so, it's a fun ride, and the tagged-on goofy ending is pleasant even if it's out of sync ballsier first four-fifths of the play.
As a side note, I was reminded by a note in the program that the Vortex has now been in its new space for a year. I'm a big fan of the new theatre with its expansive lobby and flexible black box area. Most of all, I don't have to worry about my car getting towed while I'm watching a play. Congrats Vortex.
Stage Kiss, written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Matt Heath, will run at The Vortex Theatre, 2900 NE, through November 22, 3015. The show starts at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. General admission tickets are $22, $19 for ATG or TLC members, and $15 for students. You can buy tickets online at vortexabq.org or by phone at 247-8600.