Walking out of the theatre with five pages of quotes soaked with tears of laughter, rock hard abs, and glowing smile on my face, I can gladly classify Stage Kiss as one of the few fabulously creative and hilarious joys of theatre. Playwright Sarah Ruhl has a fresh and satirical awareness of theatre that is brilliantly engaging as well as comical. Rarely are you given the opportunity to watch a production just for the absolute joy of it. But the flutters of laughter that lingered even after filing out of the seats is proof of just how well Ruhl can captivate her audience.
On a beautifully crafted stage in the Owen, Stage Kiss is set on an exquisite mock stage that gradually transforms with ease but manages to add to the humor. Beginning with a hysterically uncomfortable audition, the play becomes the rekindling of an old flame between He and She. Having been separated for some time now, the have just been cast for leading roles of a horrible play directed by an ambitious but completely mindless director. As implied by the title, kissing is a primary objective and is what eventually leads to the couple falling back in love. What sets this play apart from others is its generous dose of laughter. It not only establishes a risqué relationship with two people who are already involved with other people but it introduces a diverse cast of brave actors playing characters who are truly one of a kind. Ross Lehman plays the director obsessed with a play that even the actors can’t take seriously. Erica Elam plays He’s schoolteacher girlfriend whose energetic happiness is far from contagious but most definitely amusing among the overly theatrical actors. Finally, Jeffrey Carlson may not have a leading role, but steals the spotlight with his brain dead comments and carnivorous methods of kissing. Jenny Bacon (She) and Mark L. Montgomery (He) have a keen sense of comedy. Although Ruhl gave them a marvelous script to work with, the humor would not have been quite the same without the overly awkward or overly passionate kissing scenes. Quite simply, their reactions are priceless.
The play clearly mocks theatre. But the absurdity of a play within a play also mirrors life. The circumstances of the play He and She perform in are nearly identical to their current situation. Likewise, even her husband and daughter are played by the same actors who play her husband and daughter in the play. Clearly, trying to make sense of the circumstances is a difficult thing to do, showing how ridiculous theatre and life can be. But Ruhl’s unique sense of comedy and intelligent creativity, brings life to theatre…whether the play the audience watches, or the play within it…regardless, Stage Kiss has a distinctive voice of it’s own, one that will leave you breathless.