Stage Kiss: A Passionate Performance From Twilight Theater Company
By James Van Eaton
I'll admit, despite a personal connection to a cast member, I went into Twilight Theater Company’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s “Stage Kiss” with some trepidation as I'd read a fair portion of the script and it simply hadn't connected with me, but following last night's viewing I'm utterly thrilled to completely reverse my initial hesitation.
Stage Kiss is amazing. It features a cast of instantly interesting characters in a story that’s two-fold in meaning and lightly surreal, yet wholly believable and emotionally factual to a fault in the all places where it matters most. The plot revolves around two past lovers thrown together on stage ten years after a tumultuous separation and their examination via their roles of who they’ve since become to themselves and to one another. And certainly the story of their possible reconciliation and the people and circumstances involved is interesting, but it’s the characters and the actors portraying them that really make this show stand out.
This is one of the most perfectly cast productions I’ve seen in some time, and though I’d still classify it as a drama, a large majority of the show contains some incredibly funny moments and fantastically humorous characters. Jason Fox earned burst-out laughter, and gleeful, giddy cringing from me in an early scene and ever afterward became a riot to watch. Tony Domingue transforms the role of a wary, suspicious, yet supportive husband into an empathetic giggle-fest with over-the-top mannerisms and a heart worn prominently on his sleeve. Playing the role of the couple’s director, Christopher Ruggles has a jaded charm and a matter-of-factness that’s almost whimsical. And Jayne Ruppert should expect a Hollywood call for a sitcom pilot any day, so accurately and effortlessly does she play the snarky yet endearing twenty-something daughter of the female lead who has some perfectly-timed and acidly articulated things to say about her mother’s resurfaced lost love.
As for those lost lovers and the actors who portray them, I really cannot say enough. Rob Kimmelman plays “He” with an edgy confidence and magnetic masculinity that’s impossible to turn from even when it overflows as bouts of bitterness. Meanwhile, “She” as played to captivating perfection by Kristen Paige is a genuine, breathless, and heartbreaking study in realistic acting on stage. Paige doesn’t slip from the reality of Ruhl’s world for a second. In action, in torment, or in repose the actress and her character speak, move, and breathe with the same fervent heart. She is a joy and an honor to watch.
Under director Matt Gibson’s seamless direction “Stage Kiss” measures out equal parts optimism and dread with a momentum like a living thing. The story, settings, and characters pulse with life and movement and one cannot help but be drawn in by every dramatic turn or cleverly crafted moment, every twist of the story or droll character quirk. It’s an absolutely victory, and a fine time at the theater fashioned from everything that makes life, the stage, and life around the stage so endlessly appealing. And that, to my mind, is the highest and most fitting compliment possible for this show. I cannot recommend it highly enough.