BWW Review: Laughs Abound in Sarah Ruhl's Frothy Backstage Farce STAGE KISS at the Geffen Playhouse
I have long been a fan of plays that present an insider's look at what goes on behind-the-scenes at a theatrical production. A fine example of such a backstage farce is Sarah Ruhl's STAGE KISS, skillfully directed by Bart DeLorenzo who knows exactly how to make the most outrageous stage antics and romances seem not only probable but incredibly hysterical thanks to Sarah Ruhl's fast-paced script that leads us on-stage, back-stage and out the stage door as reality collides with fiction in this raucous and revealing relationship comedy.
The cast features seven actors who each play different roles in the play's two acts presented as a play-within-a-play that examines what happens when long-lost loves are cast as long-lost lovers, and the two squabbling actors are slow to learn their lines but quick to ignite an old flame. Act I centers on the auditions through opening night of a play doomed to fail, not only onstage but within the romantic lives of the two lead actors portrayed by Glenne Headley and Barry Del Sherman. The former lovers meet at the auditions and proceed to torment each other through the rehearsal process until their first stage kiss ignites the real passion still alive between them.
Their fellow actors in the doomed play-within-a-play include Stephen Caffrey as Headley's onstage husband, Emily James as her onstage daughter, Melody Butiu as accompanist Millicent (yes there are several extremely comedic musical numbers!), Tim Bagley as the totally befuddled director, assisted by Matthew Scott Montgomery as Kevin who is called upon to take over when the lead actor breaks his ankle. Mongomery's most hysterical moments occur when he attempts to play the romantic lead, confessing that he has no idea how to be with a woman and the audience will laugh him off the stage when he tries. And yes, he proves that statement to be utterly true!
Act II begins the following morning when the two leads wake up together in bed in his studio apartment, complicated by the arrival of his schoolteacher girlfriend Laurie (Melody Butiu) and her real-life husband Harry (Stephen Caffrey) and daughter Angela (Emily James). As expected, when Headley and Del Sherman admit they are in love, both of their other relationships fall apart. And soon an opportunity born from revenge takes the two actors out-of-town, performing in another play that not only fails but ends their affair. Look for Montgomery to make an entrance in that second play-within-a-play which I guarantee with send every audience into howls of laughter! And of course along the way, there are both hysterically comedic moments as well as heartbreaking confessions that reveal just how universal the need for love really is.
STAGE KISS tickets are priced from $32 to $76 are available in-person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, via phone at 310.208.5454 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.com. Performances continue through Sunday, May 15 in the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Monday No Performance
Tuesday-Friday 8:00 pm
Saturday 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm
The run of Stage Kiss will feature pre-show and post-show Signature Series events. Ranging from the cerebral to the celebratory these include TGIF at the Geffen, Talk Back Tuesdays (Audience Q+A with artists), Girls Night Out, Lounge Fridays, and Wine Down Sundays. Thanks to the support of Geffen Playhouse partners and sponsors, all elements of Signature Series evenings are complimentary as part of the ticket price. For Signature Series dates associated with the run of Stage Kiss visit http://geffenplayhouse.com/kissevents
Photos by Michael Lamont
Glenne Headly and Melody Butiu.