If you are an “established” married couple with children, you may sometimes find yourself pausing to examine your current life and all the “coincidences” that came together with family, friends and even strangers that brought you and your life partner together. With all the variants involved in bringing two perfectly matched people together (or in some cases mis-matched) for a lifetime it’s a wonder that there are any weddings at all not to mention anniversaries. Bathsheba Doran’s play “KIN” (now playing through May 25, 2014 at the Dobama Theatre) takes a humorous yet dramatic look at this phenomena that we call “romance”.
The first thing that strikes you when you sit down in Dobama Theatre to watch “KIN” is the set itself. It consists of a huge shelf unit that spans the stage. Placed in the shelves are over 100 pieces of luggage, trunks and boxes as well as two working lamps, a chair, a wall phone and a rifle. There is also a doorway and a window area as well as space behind the wall unit that gives it additional depth. Everything is painted a drab neutral grey, including the stage, a chair on the stage and two trunks that act as platforms, tables and seats during the play.
It is only when the play begins that the magic happens as various stills and videos are projected onto the wall of luggage with very precise lines of color projected on different edges. It is quite effective. The luggage (or baggage) is indicative of the baggage that we all carry as well as that which we encounter with the family members of our potential life partners.
It is said that when you marry, you not only gain a wife or husband, you marry the entire family as well and unless you plan to pack off to Timbuktu (or Youngstown, Ohio) and are willing to sever all forms of communication with said family members by marriage you need to learn how to deal with the myriad of personalities and peccadilloes…good, bad and ugly. However, every so often it is through the help of these new friends and family that you become a better person with the strength to release past baggage of your own while forming a stronger bond with your new soul mate.
“KIM” is the story of Anna and Sean. Who in spite of their social differences, family members and geographical challenges (she is an adjunct professor who has written an un-publishable tome titled “Keats Punctuation” he is an Irish personal trainer who on occasion travels back to see his family) manage to meet and start a relationship. The play is done in twenty short vignettes set over years that separately have no cohesion but at the end pull together to make sense of the entire affair (much like real life romance).
The play begins with Anna being dumped by her Columbia University professor/lover who declares, “Maybe I don’t know what I am looking for, but I know it’s not you”. We are then introduced to Helena, Anna’s friend and an unemployable actor who is involved in the illegal act of burying her dog in Central Park with Anna’s help. A year later, Helena is still grieving over her dog and Anna is still trolling the on-line dating services looking for someone with the upper shelf qualities of “Ambition, Education and Money” while ending up with snobbish lying men who have none of the above.
Helena convinces Anna to “broaden” her requirements in order to meet a wider variety of men (critics need not apply). Anna does so and thus meets Sean who is recovering from a break-up with a free-basing alcoholic (Rachel). Sean has an alcoholic mother (Linda) who because of a violent attack many years ago lost her husband (who left her) and son who emigrated to America. Linda is agoraphobic and has not left her house in Ireland in decades. Her only contact with humanity is with her brother (Max) who drops by on occasion to get drunk with her. On Anna’s side of the ledger is her father (Adam) a career army officer who deals in operations that are classified, a deceased mother who reveals in a journal the lack of love she had for her husband up until her death by cancer years ago, Adam’s multi-decade lover (Kay) who has terminal cancer and announces to Adam “I have defeated Western medicine, so I’m headed east!” Kay has been the unseen (by Anna) advisor who has helped Adam raise his daughter.
In the end, Anna changes the name of her book to “The Grammar of Love: Keats and Punctuation” and becomes successful as an author and lecturer. Helena is comforted by Sean after her attempted suicide and moves back with her parents in North Carolina (where she has “a close encounter of the third kind” with a bear and a hunter). Sean briefly meets up with his former girlfriend who has sobered up, gotten clean and is married with children. Anna travels with Sean to Ireland to meet Linda and with love, understanding and a little contraband Xanax gets her out of the house for the first time in years. Adam helps Kay to pass with love and dignity and offers to be the strong arm that Linda needs to attend the outdoor wedding (which is held near the site where she had been attacked so many years ago) and Anna and Sean get married as Helena officiates at the wedding ceremony on the cliffs high above the Irish coast. As the rainy wedding ceremony comes to a close, the last lines of the play are: Sean-“I wish we didn’t have to die.” Anna-“We won’t. Not for a long time yet. Not for a long time.”
As for the actors, Elana Kepner* as Anna and Geoff Knox as Sean make the perfect couple who grow before your eyes with the help of friends and family while Lenne Snively* as Linda is tender yet tough without overplaying the drinking part. Bob Keefe as Max brings much of the comedic feel to the piece and Leighann Delorenzo brings an unabashed zaniness to the role of Helena. David Bugher stands in for two roles as Gideon and Simon (two polar opposite characters) and gives equal justice to both. Jeanne Task as Kay brings an undercurrent of emotion to the play while still managing to get off some zingers and Pete Ferry* as Adam is a bit aloof while striving to break the barriers that keep him from his daughter and Rachel Lee Kolis as Rachel underplays the role of recovered drug addict turned wife and mother with aplomb.
* Members of Actors’ Equity Association
Prude Alert: The F bomb is dropped with some frequency (a bit too much for my taste) and there is mention of rape as well as sexually explicit dialog. In spite of the humor and romance you may want to sit this one out if you are sensitive to such fare.
Beefs and Flubs: This is a highly technical play that is superbly done. All the video lines up perfectly, the set is well suited and used and the acting is top notch. I could not find a single goof in this production.
Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): “Kin” does in 90 minutes what it takes couples a minimum of 25 years together (any less does not count) to realize. That it takes an army of friends, relations…and yes strangers to help them find each other and stay together. For the long married couple it will make them ponder their rich history and for the newly introduced twosome show what they have to look forward to.
Tickets are $26 regular, $24 senior for Fridays and Saturdays, $21 regular, $19 senior for Thursdays and Sundays. Preview tickets for March 6 are $10. Student tickets are $10 (full-time, under 25 with a valid ID). Tickets are available by calling the Dobama box office at (216) 932-3396, or by visiting www.dobama.org.
RUSH tickets, available to patrons 21 & younger, are $5. A limited quantity will be sold nightly no earlier than five minutes before curtain time and will be based on seat availability.
Show dates and times
Friday, May 2
Saturday, May 3
Sunday, May 4
Thursday, May 8
Friday, May 9
Saturday, May 10
Sunday, May 11
Thursday, May 15
Friday, May 16
Saturday, May 17
Sunday, May 18
Thursday, May 22
Friday, May 23
Saturday, May 24
Sunday, May 25
Dobama Theatre is generously supported by many individual donors, and the following foundations and government agencies: The Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, The Cyrus Eaton Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, The Milton and Tamar Maltz Family Foundation, The Harry K. and Emma R. Fox Charitable Foundation, The David & Inez Myers Foundation, The Ohio Arts Council, and Roe Green Foundation. Dobama Theatre is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this organization with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.
Dobama Theatre’s mission is to premiere the best contemporary plays by established and emerging playwrights in professional productions of the highest quality. Through educational and outreach programming, Dobama Theatre nurtures the development of theatre artists and builds new audiences for the arts while provoking an examination of our contemporary world.