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NEW YORK REVIEW: Stage Kiss

Published by: Cameron Lowe on 9th Apr 2014 | View all blogs by Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

Sarah Ruhl is a very funny clever playwright. Her “Stage Kiss” is a witty play about acting, especially what happens when two ex-lovers get cast in a play that requires a lot of kissing. That’s a physical “mannerism” that has a lot of physical impact. I mean, even staged fights don’t land real blows.

Jessica Hecht as She, Michael Cyril Creighton as Kevin and Patrick Kerr as the Director, photo Joan Marcus.

Jessica Hecht as She, Michael Cyril Creighton as Kevin and Patrick Kerr as the Director, photo Joan Marcus.

The two actors, She (Jessica Hecht) – is this a satirical jab at Albee? – and He (Dominic Fumusa), both now in their mid-40s, are doing a play from 1932 Broadway. Hecht, one of my favorites, seems always slightly mentally off-key, a comic pose, and Fumusa is a very good slightly angry romantic lead. Angry at this impossible woman, but still turned on by her.

She starts out with another actor who is reading the part:

SHE: Nice to meet you, Kevin. Do you want me to actually kiss Kevin, or Kevin do you mind if we kiss; you look young, I don’t want to traumatize you.

KEVIN: No—please, go ahead.

Jessica Hecht as She, Michael Cyril Creighton as Kevin, photo Joan Marcus.

Jessica Hecht as She, Michael Cyril Creighton as Kevin, photo Joan Marcus.

AS ADA: (To Kevin, as the lover) God, I love you. I love you I love you I love you. They kiss.

AS ADA: Your lips taste like—let me taste them again. She kisses him again. Of cherries? No.

KEVIN: I’m so sorry, I’m so sweaty, the elevator’s broken—

SHE: Oh no, you’re beautiful. She kisses him again. Of chestnuts. Oh, God, I want to kiss you all day!

KEVIN: (AS LOVER) And I you. She kisses him again. She starts laughing. Sorry—there was a little crumb in your mouth.

KEVIN: Oh, sorry. He wipes the crumb.

Then “He” (Fumusa), her former lover, does a rehearsal with “She” (Hecht).

AS JOHNNY: I always said you would end up with a man with a briefcase. I knew that, even when we began our doomed romance.

But don’t tell me you’ve become conventional, darling—kiss me—one last kiss…

That’s what I came for, isn’t it? One last kiss. You’re as beautiful as the day I met you.

(This reminds me of a Noel Coward play. Or maybe it’s “Casablanca.”)

AS ADA: Am I?

AS JOHNNY: (very sincerely, dropping out of character, slightly)
Yes, only I wish I’d put these lines on your face myself. Each one. He traces the lines on her face, tenderly.They kiss.

Dominic Fumusa as He and Jessica Hecht as She in Stage Kiss, photo Joan Marcus.

Dominic Fumusa as He and Jessica Hecht as She in Stage Kiss, photo Joan Marcus.

AS ADA: Oh, Johnny!

HE: Line—

DIRECTOR: Let me take you to Sweden—

AS JOHNNY: (overlapping) Let me take you to Sweden. You should die in a place where the trees are higher than the buildings.

AS ADA: No, I prefer to die where the buildings are higher than the trees. I’m a city girl. I like to be perched high above everything—so I can see. (So wonderfully hokey!!)

AS JOHNNY: Above everything—including people.

AS ADA: What’s that supposed to mean?

AS JOHNNY: (Talking as both Johnny and HE) It was as though you were always perched above me, taking in the view, you couldn’t even see my face.

SHE: Seriously? I saw your face! (not her line at all) What? Line?

DIRECTOR: I can’t help it if you aren’t very tall.

AS ADA: I can’t help it if you aren’t very tall.

AS JOHNNY: Don’t be glib!

The cast, photo Joan Marcus.

The cast, photo Joan Marcus.

AS ADA: I was mad about you! Mad! Don’t you see?

(Isn’t this Coward?)

AS JOHNNY: (Also as HE) Then why’d you leave, Ada!

AS ADA: (Also as SHE) It was impossible! Perhaps if I’d loved you less it would have been hunky-dory! I loved you too much! They look at each other. For longer than is required.

DIRECTOR: I think I hear my husband.

AS ADA: I think I hear my husband. Hang it all!

Husband enters.

AS HUSBAND: Hello, Johnny. Welcome to New York. I understand you’ve been in Sweden?

AS JOHNNY: That’s right. (He says something in Swedish.). That means: Thanks for having me. It’s good of you. In Swedish. I’m sorry about the—circumstances.

Michael Cyril Creighton, Dominic Fumusa and Jessica Hecht in play within a play, photo Joan Marcus.

Michael Cyril Creighton, Dominic Fumusa and Jessica Hecht in play within a play, photo Joan Marcus.

AS HUSBAND: Oh, don’t mention it, she doesn’t want it mentioned. Do you have everything you need to make you comfortable?

They also do a funny noirish play within a play.

You get the idea. Better to cite these clever hokey funny lines than to describe them, which would miss so much. I loved this play.

So they get together for a while, but not permanently, and the end doesn’t really matter. It’s all the dialogue that leads up to it. Sarah Ruhl is a wonderfully funny playwright. And director Rebecca Taichman keeps tongue firmly in check to create a memorable comedic delight.

Stage Kiss.” Written by Sarah Ruhl; directed by Rebecca Taichman. Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street, New York City. (212) 279–4200; Opened Feb 7, 2014; closes April 5, 2014. 4/4/14.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.

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