We've seen Gabriel Marin and Carrie Paff in many, many shows over the years. Until tonight, as they kissed on stage, we never knew that they had once been…wait, that's not true? Are you telling me that actors can kiss like that on stage without, you know, without…
The answer is yes. And no. And maybe. Sarah Ruhl's "Stage Kiss" takes us backstage as we watch a show being rehearsed where the lead actors must kiss whether they like it or not. It's a terrific concept for a show and we walk out of the theatre glad to have our honey on our arm.
Mark Anderson Phillips is wonderful, as always, as the director of the show in which She (Paff) and He (Marin) have been cast, without realizing that She and He once had a white-hot but unfinished relationship. Phillips turns out to be less a director than a voyeur, realizing that these two characters have a chemistry that could perhaps salvage the execrable 1930s play he is directing.
Let's not forget Michael Gene Sullivan as She's real-life husband and Millie DeBenedet as He's midwestern and current girl friend. DeBenedet's Iowa vision of God is a highlight of Act Two.
Allen Darby is very funny as the stand-in actor and Taylor Iman Jones is perfectly hostile as daughter Angela.
True, the ending could be tighter and possibly shorter, but it's Sarah Ruhl. You take the good with the bad so you can get to memorable lines like "How can good actors have sex with bad actors?" and "Marriage is like tattoos. They're forever." It's a nice long run and perfect for the holidays. Take your sweetie.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Stage Kiss" Three Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE. The stars are for writing, acting and for Susi Damilano's direction -- after all, the actors have to act like they are rehearsing and rehearse like they're acting. The show manages to move forward smoothly from one wrenching discovery to the next.
The BANGLE is for all the kissing. We like kissing, even if the actors are acting. He and She fooled us all.
San Francisco Playhouse
500 Post Street, 2d floor of Kensington Park Hotel
Through Jan 9, 2016
$20 and up