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BWW Review: STAGE KISS at Irish Classical Theatre

The production is a modern day farce.

A modern day farce is unfolding, and I'm not speaking of the 2022 political scene or a worldwide pandemic, but rather onstage in Sarah Ruhl's comic play, STAGE KISS. Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre is presenting this Off-Broadway play that has become quite popular among regional theatres. The Brits seem to have mastered this genre of comedic storytelling style better than anyone, succeeding greatly with hits like NOISES OFF, and, more recently, THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG. Coincidentally, all of these successful plays deal with troupes of amateur theatre actor's shenanigans as they work through the "creative process." Audiences are merely asked to suspend disbelief and go along for a rollicking ride of silliness.

BWW Review: STAGE KISS at Irish Classical Theatre

Ruhl's play focuses on a pair of former real life lovers who are coincidentally cast in the same play, playing what else, but former lovers. The plot of their rickety old stage play is banal and lends itself perfectly for overacting in a grand style. "He" is played by Guy Balotine and "She" is played by Tracie Lane. Ms. Ruhl fashions a present day take on "Kiss Me, Kate" as the quarreling ex lovers must grin and bare rehearsing love scenes while spewing expletives and contempt at each other. A blase director, and effete secondary male lead and a rag tag group of players flesh out Act I, which culminates in the horrendous production if this stage dud.

Act 2 turns the tables, as the flop has closed to miserable reviews. The formers lovers are again in love and move in together, abandoning his present romances and her marriage. It seems falling in love on stage always leading to real life romance, but the problems that existed in the past rear their heads again for these troubled lovers.

The script is full of some quite amusing site gags, often found in repetition. When "She's" daughter Millie arrives on the scene, she shocks everyone with her bluntness and horror at her mother's actions and indiscretions. . Christine Turturro is great as Millie, full of caustic wit and in your face opinions.

Marisa Caruso is a local standout, shining in all of her moments on stage as Millicent and Laurie. Caruso is effervescent as she glides across the stage and is surely a talent to watch.

Greg Howze is our Director, finding the humor required in portraying a leader with a hands-off approach to directing. Kevin Craig is spot on in his many small roles, to the audience's delight. Meanwhile Rolando Gomez plays two husband figures, more convincingly in the farce portion of Act 1.

Guy Balotine does some fine work as "He," the struggling actor . He rekindles a fire with his ex, but in doing so breaks his ankle and must perform the play on crutches-- props like these are always a great opportunity for sight gags and Mr. Balotine handles them brilliantly. He is as convincing as the leading man type as he is as the down on his luck actor.

Tracie Lane as "She" literally bursts onto the stage with nervous energy as the out of work actress desperate for any role, even in this dud of a play. She never allows the farcical elements to become shtick, yet lands all the laughs in the right places. The number of times she is kissed by different men quickly adds up, and each kiss is somehow magically different from the rest-- Credit should be given to Intimacy Director Anna Krempholtz for her attention. As Balotine and Lane fall in love again, their passion is palpable. The lines soon become blurred as to what is a stage kiss versus a romantic expression of true love,

The script, while often funny, sags in the second act where the absurdity of real life doesn't lend it self to the farcical elements. While the love affair fizzles yet again, the preposterous arrival of the husband and daughter of "She" at "He's" apartment seems contrived. And characters all breaking into song for no apparent reason isn't really that humorous.

Costumes by Tom Maker are serviceable while the settings by Paul Bostaph rarely rose above community theatre level.

Director Fortunato Pezzimenti keeps a decent rein on the proceedings, but as the play wears on, the myriad of dialects being used becomes mushy, and the posturing for comic sense wears thin. The chaos of the second act builds with the pair now rehearsing a second ridiculous play, against a backdrop of trash that litters the stage, resulting in a mishmash that ultimately lacks dramatic focus.

STAGE KISS plays at Irish Classical Theatre though April 24, 2022. Contact for more information

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From This Author - Michael Rabice