Here’s a little update on me: It’s been a busy week with the production I am working on. I was put in charge of all of the wardrobe, which has been a huge undertaking. The biggest part of that job is orchestrating all of the laundry, as some of it gets hand washed, some gets taken to a laundromat, and some gets dry cleaned.
Last week, I went to see Stage Kiss, the newest play by Sarah Ruhl, esteemed MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Tony Award nominee, and my favorite playwright. At first glance, the story of Stage Kiss is simple: two struggling New York actors are cast in the revival of tired, old 1930s melodrama, where the leading actors are forced to kiss each other again and again. Naturally, this would lead to emotions stirring up between the two and a possible “showmance” would begin. This gets complicated when the married leading actress, played by Jessica Hecht, meets her single leading man, played by Dominic Fumusa, because they are ex-lovers. The rehearsal process opens up old wounds from the past between the two, as they struggle to keep their on stage story separate from their personal lives.
The bumbling director and supporting cast of the play within Stage Kiss make up the rest of the characters. Most memorable among them was Michael Cyril Creighton, who plays the director’s assistant and who later fills in as the leading man’s understudy. Creighton completely captures the essence of that actor who just doesn’t “get it” during rehearsal. All of the laughs in Stage Kiss come from watching the scenes where the actors are in rehearsal for the forgotten, old play. Their antics are all too relatable for anyone who has ever been inside a rehearsal room.
Ruhl is a writer known for rebelling against realism. She writes in a poetic style and imbues her plays with surreal landscapes. For example, Ruhl’s Melancholy Play features a languishing young woman who speaks in similes. There is also a scene in her play Eurydice where the heroine appears in a elevator, where it is raining inside. In some ways, Stage Kiss feels like her most realistic play, yet Ruhl still manages to add her signature touches to the story. There are a few bold moments that step outside of reality, such as a darkly tender musical number in the second act. Other moments subtly walk the line between fantasy and reality, which left me wondering if what I was seeing was part of the play-within-the-play or the backstage life of the characters.
Ruhl and Playwrights Horizons have an absolute hit on their hands! I foresee Stage Kiss to be the Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike of the next season; that is, the hilarious audience favorite that gets produced regionally all over the country.