Yale Repertory Theatre
Yale Repertory Theatre is currently presenting a deeply unsettling production of Guillermo Calderon’s play, “Kiss.” Directed by Evan Yionoulis, this play takes place in Damascus in 2014. Featuring a six member cast, “Kiss” often plays like a fever dream, as well as an exaggerated soap opera, and it has more twists and turns than could possibly be summed up. (I would hate to give away the many surprises in the show, anyway). “Kiss” is not an easy play to embrace and the Yale Repertory Theatre’s production is altogether visceral and disturbing. Imagine a nightmarish episode of “The Twilight Zone” and that will give you an idea of what the kind of theatrical experience “Kiss” often feels like.
The attractive set of this show, nicely designed by Ao Li, is, basically, a living room, with a front door and a door that leads to the other rooms. The four actors that occupy the beginning of “Kiss” are all good and turn in effective performances. The show starts with Hadeel (Sohina Sidhu) welcoming James Cusati-Moyer, as Youssif, into her home for what seems to be a viewing party of the soap opera they are involved in. Two other characters factor into the plot, Ian Lassiter as Amid and Hend Ayoub as Bana. There are various interrelations between the four characters and numerous romantic couplings, to the point that the show almost gets confusing.
Beyond the opening scene, however, it is rather difficult to describe what happens in “Kiss.” Suffice it is to say that there are many unexpected events that take place onstage and the audience is ultimately thrown into a state of shock and uneasiness. This play and production are truly unlike anything I have ever experienced before, but, whether that is a good thing or not is anyone’s guess. Speaking from the gut, “Kiss” is truly a tough show to really recommend.
Beyond the four leads, there is also a character, named, simply, “Woman,” in the program, who is memorably personified by Rasha Zamamiri, wearing an obvious blond wig and dark glasses. She first makes an appearance about a third of the way through the show and she is accompanied by Abubakr Ali, who is called the “Interpreter.” How these two performers figure into the action is nearly impossible to reveal without giving away a major surprise in the play. It can be said, however, that all six actors give brave performances in this difficult show and they can certainly be saluted for throwing themselves completely into Guillermo Calderon’s and director Evan Yionoulis’ hallucinatory production.
Costume designer Cole McCarty has designed the appropriate costumes and lighting designer Erin Earle Fleming’s contribution is especially effective in one scary sequence late in the play. There should also be a shout-out to sound designer Michael Costagliola, who has also composed the hypnotic original music in the show, and projection designer Wladimiro A. Woyno R. has done similarly good work.
Yale Repertory Theatre’s presentation of “Kiss” is certainly unforgettable and, personally, by the conclusion, I felt almost like I was having an out-of-body experience. Indeed, this play and production are hard to shake long after the final curtain has come down. Whether one truly wants to take the ride that “Kiss” is offering may come down to a matter of taste, and this show certainly follows previous productions at Yale Repertory Theatre (such as this season’s “Field Guide”) in upending an audience’s expectations. Whether that is actually a positive thing, though, is questionable. Ultimately, though, it can be said that “Kiss” is quite unlike anything you have ever seen onstage before.
“Kiss” continues performances at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, CT through May 19, 2018. For tickets, please visit www.yalerep.org or call the box office at 203-432-1234.
Photo: (L-R): Ian Lassiter, Sohina Sidhu, and Hend Ayoub
Photo by Joan Marcus