BWW Review: STAGE KISS Blurs the Lines of Passion
Manila, Philippines - Repertory Philippines (REP) opens its 2020 season with the backstage comedy Stage Kiss, a straight play written by distinguished playwright Sarah Ruhl, who also wrote The Vibrator Play and Eurydice.
In Stage Kiss, there are two plays-within-the-play, and the audience observes what happens behind the scenes. She, a woman who returns to the theater after many years, finds out on the first day of rehearsals that she's paired with her ex-lover, He. This leads to a series of events where the line between the plays and the actors' personal lives begin to blur. It's up to them to set facts and feelings apart from reality and fantasy.
The production makes it so easy to hook the audience with the hilarious first act. The cheesy drama they were rehearsing was too stylistic, dated, and exaggerated, which was just so humorous. Intentionally, the lousy acting had to take place; otherwise, it wouldn't be funny at all, and the cast pulled it off splendidly.
The second act takes quite a different turn, focusing more on reality. The confrontations and outcomes of their actions were essential, letting the characters become more in touch with themselves. Working intimately with people in such close quarters all the time may resurface old feelings, but they aren't the most reliable and logical emotions.
The play is an excellent commentary on the emotional journeys of the actors at work. It shows how stage plays typically go with the whole production process as well as how actors go about rehearsing their lines and fight scene techniques. Director Carlos Siguion-Reyna has put together an outstanding cast that pulled off the complexity of the material and was perfectly capable of showing its ingenuity.
Missy Maramara's performance was outstanding as she gracefully and comically takes on the role of such a character (She). Maramara switches between distinctive characters that exhibit how talented she is. Her role masks the pain of dissatisfactions and frustrations in life about relationships, careers, and what-ifs. She shows that unsteadiness and need for approval, making the audience feel for her when she finally breaks character and tries to fix the consequences of her choices.
Tarek El Tayech (He) was convincing in his role as the arrogant and egotistical male lead. He has good chemistry with Maramara but comes off as too self-important that the audience does not see what "She" sees in him. Robbie Guevara (The Husband) did well, also, especially with his scenes in the second act, providing a striking difference between He and The Husband.
Jamie Wilson (The Director) and Justine Narciso (Angela/Millie/Maid) also gave noteworthy performances from start to finish. As the overly-confident Director who exhibits his laughable lack of expertise, Wilson so quickly becomes a favorite. Narciso was terrific with her every role, and when the play ended, it was rather sad not to have seen more of her.
Andres Borromeo as the understudy was incredibly hilarious and just so entertaining to watch, and Mica Pineda (Laurie/Millicent) stood out as He's girlfriend with her ridiculously too-nice personality.
Everything works so well together with Ohm David's impressive set design, transforming a rehearsal space into a theatre set (within a set) for both acts, with very on-point set dressing. Dennis Marasigan's lighting design brings it to life even more and supports the play splendidly. The highly-unforgettable white suit and emerald gown by Bonsai Cielo (costume designer) are two of the most iconic design elements of the show.
In its entirety, Stage Kiss explores the world of theater and the depth of love while probing about the intimacy between performing artists. Ruhl's material shows that passion can be tricky with the characters He and The Husband setting apart the stable and secure romance and the undependable fervor amplified by scene work.
The atmosphere of the two acts profoundly differs, but Siguion-Reyna accomplishes a sense of stability that makes the final scenes effective, showing just how skilled he is at doing what he does. The play is staged so wonderfully, balancing the laughs and the drama, which isn't far from how life goes. The play is not only worth watching, but the material is worth pondering about, too.
Stage Kiss plays at Onstage Theatre, Greenbelt 1, Ayala Center, Makati City, now through 1 March 2020.
Photos: Oliver Oliveros