Posted by Carten Cordell / Monday, June 20th, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
To identify the human condition in a textbook is one matter, but for one man to stand on a stage and deliver a compassionate and perceptive discourse on the constant search for love, acceptance and understanding is a bold undertaking. David Cale has brilliantly done it.
“The History of Kisses,” a world premiere production at the Studio Theatre, takes place on a beach in California where the narrator meets new and old acquaintances as he searches for the answers to love. The sea is, perhaps, the key to the show. Dramaturg Adrien-Alice Hansel writes, “Subject to its own rhythms and logic, the sea has long served as a symbol for the unpredictability of the human heart and the flashes of desire with the potential to shift a life forever.” Cale’s play weaves the romantic encounters of ordinary people into a tale that comes full circle. The comedic, natural way in which the characters’ stories intertwine reads as though Cale has brought a good novel – or a scandalous diary – to life. As Cale’s characters explore the beach and recall their lost loves, we as audience members are watching from the sea, recognizing our own flashes of desire and vulnerabilities in the characters’ successes and struggles.
From the moment David Cale walks across the sandy stage to face the audience, you can’t take your eyes off of him. He is an excellent storyteller who has mastered the art of building a plot; not only do his stories crescendo in their language but his masterful delivery captures your attention. From the scene where he presents an erotic Australian cooking show to the memory of a woman who found out that her lost love, and father to her child, died, it is evident that Cale’s creative talent is both humorous and somber. The concerns of his characters felt real. I was watching real men and women, not just the writings of one man.
Cale had a strong and versatile cast of characters to perform. He excelled at the accents, though I would have liked to see more diversity with the women he played. While that may not have been vocally possible, many of the women fell into a pattern of jerky, gossipy gesture and sound that I felt could have been remedied with a foreign accent or graceful posture and movement. I applaud the choice to have an easel with scene titles and characteristics. It didn’t seem out of place on the set and was a helpful tool for moving the dialogue forward. Beverly Emmon’s lighting design also enhanced the storytelling, splashing different washes of light over the characters as their stories moved from night to day and even underwater.
The simple set became a canvas for Cale. It was never distracting for his performance. The lifeguard chair, the backdrop of an old brick wall, and the vast stretch of sand allowed his characters to take their preference for how and where they would tell their story. I begged for him to leave his shoes behind, though. It would have added a nice touch to the motif of the beach, the barefooted feeling that lovers get when they’ve got everything to lose, and the vulnerable openness which he and his characters take in their interactions with the audience.
Perhaps the most poignant part of Cale’s script is the beautiful seeds of advice he plants along the way. For those itching for a new adventure, “Slap your daily routine in the face and say, I’m out of here.” For those who can’t find the courage to put themselves out there, “You’re on this bloody earth but once. Go and sing your heart out.” But for those who are in the mood for 90 minutes of heartwarming and heartbreaking stories, “The History of Kisses” is on stage at the Studio Theatre (www.studiotheatre.org) through July 3, and it’s “a welcome break from the ordinary.”