Loneliness is the bane and dire reality of the human condition, as the likes of existential philosophers Sartre, Kierkegaarde and Nietzsche devoted their life's works to. Bathsheba Doran's tragic-comic drama, "Kin," now in its run at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills, explores this theme with pristine precision and intense emotional range by a superbly talented ensemble, featuring Alan Aymie; Melissa Collins; Elizabeth Lande; John Combs; Rhonda Lord; Grinnell Morris; David Hunt Stafford; Luise Heath; and Alice Cutler.
Theatre 40 seems to have a secure lock on little precious gems that are often overlooked or ignored by other theatrical venues. The play is a series of vignettes, all seeming very near and dear to the playwright's heart, on scenarios and situations, such as the plight of the lonely publisher on business travel; and a woman losing her beloved, unconditional BFF, her dog. Each vignette, one more profound than the next, touches on the profound need for bonding and connection in today's world of disconnect and discord. One of the most fascinating scenes, in my opinion, is the final scene, where a bride and groom, happily, finally find one's intended soulmate, only to meet at the altar, and utter, " What if one of us dies....?" Shades of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler and A Doll's House ring true, revealing that even amidst marriage and companionship, the most poignant kind of loneliness still sets in. One thinks they have struck gold and inner peace, but alas, the human animus is such a complicated entity. Ultimately the two opposing dichotomies, "No man/woman is an island," and Sartre's theory that "being and nothingness are one and the same," prevail in counterbalance in this production.
All the play's characters are struggling to connect, to ultimately find love, belonging, and peace of mind, in the presence of others. Perhaps the production's most unique feature is that the entire cast of characters remain onstage throughout the intermission-less play, remaining seated with their backs to the audience until their scene is presented. A cold, sterile, almost barren set, consisting only of upstage blocks, serve as chairs, where the actors are thinly veiled by transparent curtains. The set reminds the audience that you can be in a crowd of people, yet still feel completely alone.
John Combs is superb, with a spot-on Irish accent and complementing cantankerous edge, bringing rich characterization to his role as Linda's brother. Melissa Collins is excellent as Anna, infusing an inner turmoil, as she struggles to connect with her fiance, as well as her estranged father. She emphatically states, "You're a stone."
The bear scene, set in the isolated wilderness, though a bit bizarre (virtually straight out of Twilight Zone), seems to further explore how people connect, even in the most random and dangerous of circumstances. Grinnell Morris, as Sean, also delivers a compelling performance as a young man trying to move forward while dwelling on a past lover. Rhonda Lord's interpretation of Linda seemed uneven and scattered, as her pacing was rather slow, resulting in a characterization somewhat difficult to follow, whether intentional or not. Although the play explored the human search for connection, which certainly resonates with the entire audience, its darker, melancholic elements can weigh heavy on one's heart.
"Kin: Theatre 40 Reuben Cordova Theatre 241 S Moreno Drive Beverly Hills
Thursdays through Saturdays 8Pm; Sundays 2 PM
ends October 27th 310 364-9535 theatre40.org