Saturday, March 10, 2018

Stage Kiss—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland

“All the World’s a Stage…”

     This rather odd comedy is written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Matt Gibson.  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave., (just off Lombard), through March 25th.  (There is a free church parking lot across the street that can be used.)  For more information, go to their site at

     The above caption is more than fitting for the premise of this play.  We are all truly different people depending on circumstances.  In this case “Life imitates Art…,” or is it the other way around?!  We are the sum total of a soul, genes, rearing and contacts as we mature.  But when you add the layer of a performing artist to this mix, you’ve just opened a whole other can of worms, as the characters they portray onstage add another layer of reality to an already complicated life, as in this case.

     As to who’s who and what’s what in the plot, if put in writing, would just add more confusion.  So, I will try to give a short sketch of the basics.  It seems that He (Rob Kimmelman) and She (Kristen Paige) are former lovers from Youth and are now trying out to play lovers in a play with a respected Director (Christopher Ruggles) and his trusty sidekick, Kevin (Jason Fox).  She has a husband, Harrison (Tony Domingue), and a daughter, Angela (Jayne Ruppert), now.  He has a lover living with him, Laurie (Amanda Clark), so those factors complicate things a bit as to any rekindling of a romance between He and She.  But then, there is the play, albeit a campy soap opera, in which they can go beyond, perhaps, that “stage kiss.”

     Needless to say, it does get messy when stage roles mix with real life and can be hard to distinguish between the two.  (A side note—this really does often happen in the theatre/film world, as well, where intense relationships onstage can be intense off-stage, too.)  Also, these same seven actors portray other characters in the play(s) as well, probably deliberate, and that adds even more layers to the plot.  Really can’t tell you more without giving away plot devices and, perhaps, confusing you even more as to the interweaving in the stories.

     This is not Ruhl at her best.  The play needs editing, especially in the first act, as the repetition gets tiresome after a while.  And the blending of camp humor in the first act and some serious moments in the second act are an uneasy mix at best.  Also, the constant scenery changes got to be annoying, as if she was writing for TV or a film.  There is a rather nice ending, albeit a bit far-fetched, but the overall story needs some tightening, although a good idea.  The funniest bit being a silent, sight gag with Clark, who is a master of deadpan comedy.    I won’t give it away but you’ll know it when it happens.

Gibson is a terrific comedy director and he does his best with this material and a very able cast.  All the actors are right for the roles they play, especially the two leads.  And I particularly liked the musical interludes.  Domingue, with his commanding voice and Clark, with her big eyes and Keaton-like expressions, both having been in plays here before, stand out in the supporting cast.

     I marginally recommend this show because of a very talented cast and director.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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