BWW Review: Upstream Theaters Wonderful DE KUS/THE KISS
Playwright Ger Thijs' work, DE KUS has been splendidly translated by Paul Evans in Upstream Theater's production of THE KISS. There is a certain magic in these woods where a chance encounter takes place. It's that old adage about the importance of first impressions, but taken to show that second and third and fourth, etc impressions can be more even more revealing, and honest. That's the sense of wonder we experience watching this unique play, set in a woodland, path strewn Dutch forest, where a man and woman meet repeatedly, and find new "hidden truths" that allow each of them to delve a bit closer into the life of the other. It's a truly special show that captures the imagination in unexpected fashion, somehow transforming a black box theatre into a beautiful landscape where personalities begin to emerge as an unlikely couple come together, to ponder, console, and pass the time. This is just a terrific show that completely demands your attendance.
Lisa Tejero (Woman) is having a moment on a bench in the woods where this story begins, and you can palpably sense her unease at the journey she is about to take. Along comes the brash Eric Dean White (Man), who initially comes off as a total jerk, insinuating himself into sharing a bench with someone who would rather just suffer their pain in silence. But, something happens as they keep seeing each other at various benches as they travel along the same path. Tejero opens up a bit. White does as well. They sense a slight commonality in their marital situations. Then they're back again, beginning a walk along the path when White takes things in a dark direction, rightly frightening Tejero, who exits hurriedly.
It's the end of the first act, and you're wondering what possible course this play is going to take next. And, that's the beauty of it, because Tejero and White meet again, and again. And each time a little bit more of reality creeps in, and also something else, the dreams of possibilities. The paths we choose define our futures, define us as humans. Tejero and White are able to perfectly capture that uncertainty that accompanies those fleeting thoughts of fancy we all possess.
The lights come up, the actors bow, and we're changed by what just witnessed. So simple. But so thought-provoking in ways that seem to sink in deeper as each moment passes, and you head toward your car. That's the power of well done theatre.
Kenn McLaughlin directs with just the right touch to bring out the nuances of each character. This is important, because it's those little things we all do that are actually signals about how we're actually feeling, but sometimes unable to express. Michael Heil's scenic design makes great use of the space, allowing the actors to follow a trail that nicely catches the autumnal feel of the piece, and it's greatly enhanced by scenic artist Cristie Johnston's lovely background. Michele Friedman Siler outfits the pair in clothes that seem comfortable for them as characters, and that's important. Tony Anselmo's lighting delivers a nice seasonal atmosphere, and so does the sound design of Philip Boehm and Michael B. Perkins.
See THE KISS. Upstream Theater is one of finest theatrical companies in town,consistently delivering quality entertainment that moves you to think and feel in ways you may never have before. That's so important, and they should be supported, so check out this wonderful show through October 25, 2015 at the Kranzberg Arts Center.