Two people meet at a clearing in the woods, and after a while, drop their guards and pretenses in “The Kiss.”
Translated by Paul Evans from “De Kus” by Ger Thijs, the Dutch play features universal moments, and Upstream Theater entrusts this journey to the intrepid Eric Dean White and Lisa Tejero, who represent the disparate fire and ice personalities.
The no-names Woman and Man reveal intimate details of their lives and discover things about themselves. Over the course of two acts, they argue, wallow and lay their souls bare.
The Man, supposedly a stand-up comic, is staying nearby, and the Woman, a retired pharmacy owner, is on her way to a doctor’s appointment about a breast cancer diagnosis.
The guy is more of an irascible, bitter sort, who doesn’t seem to have a filter. With his flippant way, it’s apparent he has shouldered more than his share of disappointments in life. In a carefully nuanced performance, White captivates. His character has a wider range of emotions to display.
The Woman is on the opposite end of the spectrum. She’s a little chilly and aloof, but there is a melancholy about her. She carries herself like an affluent wife. Tejero’s body language expertly reveals her emotions, and when she thaws out, conveys vulnerability well.
Director Kenn McLaughlin noted that it’s good to journey off into the unknown, and sometimes that’s how we find our best selves, and sometimes we are guided by forces and feelings we might not understand.
As moods and tensions shift, McLaughlin’s direction keeps the pair moving. The attractive autumnal scenic design by Michael Heil allows for simulation of walking to other destinations, and Tony Anselmo’s lighting design effectively enhances the stage at the Kranzberg Arts Center.
Upstream Theater is known for both new works and reworking classics, and the opening of their 11th season features this intriguing U.S. premiere, set in Holland.
However, the play itself could have been tightened considerably, perhaps only one act? The second act is more interesting than the first.
But White and Tejero make it compelling theater in English.
Who: Upstream Theatre
When: Oct. 18, 22-25
Where: Kranzberg Arts Center
Tickets: www.upstreamtheater.org; 314-863-4999