Goodman Theatre presents
At 170 N. Dearborn
Written by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Jessica Thebus
Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30pm
Thursdays and Sundays at 2pm and 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Rhett and Scarlett, Rick and Ilsa, Harry and Sally, romantic moments are sealed with a kiss. The unforgettable passion transfixes the voyeur audience in wonderment. To give off that kind of heat, surely the actor isn't acting. Goodman Theatre presents the world premiere of STAGE KISS. An actress returns to the stage after taking a break to raise her child. She is cast as a woman torn between her husband and an old lover. Ironically, the actor playing her old lover is her old lover. How can she kiss a man she despises? For play, she does! And then the drama really starts. Well really, it's a comedy. The play within a play is a drama within a comedy. What's really happening? What's fantasy? What's been staged? The witty farce explores actors behind the scenes and between the sheets. Pucker up because STAGE KISS isn't just lip service. It's a pure pleasurable, actors with benefits, make-out session.
Playwright Sarah Ruhl was commissioned to create the romantic fantasy specifically for the Goodman Theatre. Ruhl penned a comedy about the toll of repeated kissing. Eight kisses per show, including matinees, over a ten week run is a whole lot of showbiz smooching. For the script within a script, the clever dialogue engages on two levels. The doubleplay wraps smartly together for a satisfying love story onstage and offstage. From audition to rehearsal to opening to strike, the talented actors put on a show! Jenny Bacon (She) is a flawless actress playing a flawed actress. Bacon exaggerates her dramatic intensity for laughter aplenty. Her snippets of vulnerability balance with temperamental artistry for delightful absurdity. Cueing up the amorous affair, Mark L. Montgomery (He) flourishes as the dashing, leading man. Montgomery manifests the illusionary traits for a falling-in-love set-up. He contrasts it hilariously with the reality of an actor's real life struggles. The chemistry between Bacon and Montgomery sizzles with a pretend-real-pretend...real? sensuality.
Under the direction of Jessica Thebus, no laugh is left unexplored. During intimate moments between Bacon and Montgomery, the supporting cast is knocking over props, holding up scenery, and running to their entrance. Thebus utilizes every potential funny theatrical element for the staged spoof. The entire cast joins in the loving mockery of their craft. Ross Lehman (Director) buffoons with vague and quirky directorial choices. As an understudy, Jeffrey Carlson is hysterical subbing in on the kiss. Whether he's munching, tripping or biting, Carlson continually brings an understated side of slapstick. Erica Elam, Scott Jaeck, and Sarah Tolan-Mee amuse as the real life people who love actors. Their combined dismissal of actors' dramatic decisions is comical patronization. On an ever-transforming stage by Todd Rosenthal, the staged illusion of reality and pretend is multi-dimensional entertainment.
Kiss of death. Kiss off! Pow, right in the kisser! Although the power behind it may change everything, 'A kiss is still a kiss!' STAGE KISS is the perfect expression of acting like you're in love. It's a fun, frothy, summer fling!
Enjoying another Ruhling theatre experience, Roger describes it with 'hilarious AND smart.'
Production photography by Liz Lauren.