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stage dive

Theater Reviews: Kin, Hello Again, and the Still Crappy Double Falsehood

A scene from Kin.

Kin (Playwrights Horizon through April 17)
Bathsheba Doran's latest journey to the limits of human intimacy takes us from hard-charging Manhattan to misty-wistful Donegal, from repressed D.C. to the mythic woods of North Carolina. But Kin isn't an epic — director Sam Gold (Circle Mirror Transformation) just makes it look that way, and the illusion works wonders for play, playwright and audience.

The play itself is a very small, very familiar urban convo-dramedy about two lonely urbanites (Patch Darragh and Kristen Bush) falling in love, falling out of it, falling back, falling down, etc. Doran — whose elegant-yet-colloquial wit really dances in the mouths of this superb ensemble cast — wisely keeps her rather generic leads apart, describing the course of their relationship in bas-relief, via the follies of their broadly drawn (yet just as broadly appealing) friends and family. But primary credit must go to Gold and his delicate hand with melancholic comedy. Keeping the twee at bay, he gives the whole thing a dream-ballet quality, making excellent use of Paul Steinberg's mesmeric, ever-shifting set. He's taken a modest, moody little quarter-life crisis and built it into a stunning cloud-castle.

Double Falsehood (Classic Stage Company through April 3)
The world has known Double Falsehood as a crappy play for nearly three centuries, but we've only recently learned (through the magic of statistical analysis) that it's Shakespeare's crappy play. More accurately, it's a crappy play based on a play (the long-lost Cardenio) that Shakespeare probably contributed to, alongside his late-career collaborator John Fletcher (co-writer of Two Noble Kinsman and Henry VIII)... who may or may not have rewritten him completely, and whose own rewrites may or may not have been overwritten by others, including its 18th century “discoverer” and adapter, Lewis Theobald. If this is starting to sound like a not-terribly-riveting seminar, it's good prep for Brian Kulick's strangely arid and immobile production of what is inarguably, no matter who wrote it, a bad romance — spastically paced, lazily moralistic, profoundly un-engaging. Yet Kulick treats the freshly-accredited text daintily, like a precious artifact. With the exception of the brutal rape that (kind of) sets the (wisp of a) story in (slow) motion, he manages to keep his actors antiseptically isolated from one another, marooning them on a series of Persian rugs. (Rugs on the floor, rugs on the wall, all nearly identical in color and pattern, and each of them separately lit: Welcome to Bored, Bard and Beyond!) The actors do their level best — and Slate Holmgren, as the fiendish violator Henriquez, has his moments, as does Mackenzie Meehan playing his principle victim, Violante. But it's all too clear that something's been lost in the translation — if there was anything to lose in the first place — and Kulick, keeping a safe distance, makes it clear he won't be the one to restore it.

Hello Again (52 Mercer Street through April 10)
Say hello again to Hello Again, Michael John Lachiusa's 1993 chamber musical based on Arthur Schnitzler’s much-adapted sex-go-round La Ronde. And this time, say it up close and personal. The Transport Group (famed for its recent penthouse revival of The Boys in the Band) has translated the show to a "raw" staging in a hangar-like slab of a Soho loft, where the audience is seated at round wedding-style tables. It's a chilly room for a nonstop series of sexual couplings, but then these are, for the most part, cold encounters of the unkind: Lachiusa follows Schnitzler's structure faithfully — with one significant gender change — but the original hand-offs are intact. Time, however, slides around, and each number takes place in a different decade, regardless of the characters' temporal origination point. The acoustics and balance are surprisingly good (“Tom” and “Mistress of the Senator” come off particularly well), considering that the staging often requires actors to dash several yards to their next mark, practically leaping over audience members in the process. Sex set to music is, of course, notoriously unsexy, especially at close range, especially when the tempos are brisk and the thrusting allegro. Hello Again is at its best when it's funny and when it's vaguely terrifying, as when Bob Stillman's Husband pursues a forbidden assignation with Blake Daniel's Young Thing, even after he's learned the ocean liner they're on has struck an iceberg and is taking on water. I felt the earth move on that one — or maybe it was just a sinking feeling. With Hello Again, it's hard to tell.  Moments of tenderness aren't out of the question (Daniel and Jonathan Hammond's “The One I Love”), but the overall effect is unsettling and half-satisfying, somewhere between a dry hump and a tease.

Photo: Photo by Joan Marcus