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STAGE KISS Royal George Theatre/Shaw Festival
May 21, 2018, 17:25
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Shaw Festival
Through September 1
STAGE KISS Shaw Festival/Royal George Theatre

It was once easy to believe stage actors were kept in some science fiction sleeping pods off-stage, to be wakened when there was a role for them or when the stage manager announced “places.”
In this age of electronic celebrity, we know that’s not true, knowing what gyms performers hang out in, what yoga pants they wear, what softball league they play in and what bed they arise from.
Sarah Ruhl’s “Stage Kiss,” is about the reality of the stage and not about the image.
The story is built around a revival of a play which didn’t work in 1932 but a director (Neil Barclay) believes it will work now.
A lot of backer dollars have gone down the drain with that attitude.
She (Fiona Byrne) shows up late and auditions for the lead female role and is hired, only to discover male lead He (Martin Happer) is a former lover she lost touch with while developing a real life, a marriage and a family.
They slip back into a relationship when those stage kisses start getting a little too real and she remembers her dreams of stardom.
That’s it, a fling.
Except this might be a lot more than that.
He’s never been really successful, living in a rat trap of an actor’s apartment somewhere around Broadway, with what’s probably a ridiculous rent, these days.
She married a guy with money and we even meet the daughter.
While I saw a preview, this is probably the locked-down version, with the opening looming.
Ruhl has been around the stage track before, with local productions of her “The Clean House” and “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play.”
It shows in this look at dreams and reality and life, on and off stage.
She wants to be young again and He regrets the relationship which fell apart and which he could never replicate.
Husband (Sanjay Talwar) is more tolerant than I would have expected, with his wife’s extended fling and the effect on their daughter.
It reminded me a little of those stories you hear about two people attending a high school or college reunion and deciding a person from way back then is better than what life has led them to.
You wonder how it worked out.
The show is really wonderful in its depiction of the madness which occurs in rehearsals, as a production is put together, especially with a director seemingly not sure exactly what he wants to occur on stage as Barclay’s Adrian Schwalbach confusingly does here with “I Loved You before I Killed you, or Blurry.”
Most of us have certainly seen shows showing a director whose production wasn’t quite ready on Opening Night.
Director Anita Rochon has a strong cast to work with, Byrne, Happer, Barclay, Jeff Meadows’ airy Kevin and newcomers Talwar, Sarena Parmar and Rong Fu.
Designer Gillian Gallow contributed a practice room which looks like the stage area which once existed backstage in Shea’s and was removed because it was so decrepit and decrepit is hardly strong enough to describe He’s apartment.
With Ruhl’s past work, it’s not surprising that you can sit in the theater and become really uncomfortable with some of the action on stage, realistic but uncomfortable, that feeling at a cocktail party when a couple gets into a fight and marital issues spill out on the carpet, next to the still-wet martini.
Life happens and there is a stronger word often used.
Byrne, Happer and Barclay make “Stage Kiss”, work and their performances alone make the show worth seeing.


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