Sets & Costumes Design by Valentina Komolova, Maria Korenev & Leonid Osseny
Lighting Design by Daniel Bishop-Schaffer
Sound Design by Mark VanDerzee
Music Arrangement by Emily Roman
I think "The Language of Kisses" is, directly and simply, about sex. However Director Lilia Levitina and her amazing cast have made all the characters' emotions so physical as to reduce Edmund De Santis' script to a subtext. The central figure here is Zan (Maria Monakhova), a writer living on a farm --- and living with a young man half her age she calls her "hired man". When her college-age daughter (or Zan's younger self?) played by Julie McNiven, reappears, a triangle with Shawn LaCount's Blue as the fought-over prize. But remember I said the conflicted Zan is a writer, so could it be that everything happening here is really just a physical projection of the story in her mind?
There is a direct, lyrical expressionism at work here that uses dance and movement in long, wordless passages, as introduction and as transition between scenes. Gauze curtains symbolize the ambiguity of it all, used both as set, as scrim, and as dance-partners at various times. The writer's skirt is clean, but full of the ragged holes of approaching age; Blue dresses in blue, while the cynical young daughter espouses the in-your-face fashions of the '60s Love Generation.
When the words start to come, the contrast in styles is further emphasized. Zan is introspective, indecisive, defensive --- she hides behind socially-acceptible euphemisms and politeness. Mara her daughter on the other hand is blandly, flatly combative and wondingly honest. Between them, Blue mostly tries to hide a painful past and a slippery grasp on the present. These traits make their first lunch together a deadly game of pin-ball.
I cannot explain why this production is intriguing rather than erotic. I mean, Zan and Blue can hardly keep their hands off one another, and when alone their merest touch is electrically inviting. And Mara's idea of flirting is to smear a trickle of jam over one naked nipple and ask Blue to lick it off. But each of these actors seems to be wholly inside their emotional states --- fascinatingly free to be exactly what they are.
The acting is as flawless as it is fearless; The music arranged by Emily Romm is eerily effective; and Felix Ivanov's "choreography" is more stylized movements than bravura technique. But the effect, every moment, is fascinating, involving, and startlingly original.
Like any work of art, though "The Language of Kisses" defies proper description, it's on my narrowing list of Best Productions of the year.
Form an opinion of your own, and see if you don't agree.
Producers Ed Bullins & Mort Kaplan
Choreography by Carl Thomsen
Set Designed Brynna Bloomfield
Lighting Designed by Scott Pinkney
Sound by Dewey Dellay
Costumes Designed by Janet Bobscean
Wardrobe Mistress Akiba Abaka
Stage Manager Geoffrey Savage
Louisa Lindsley..............June Lewin
Clarice johnson.........Robbie McCauley
Carter Johnson.....George Pendleton III
Amy Rockwell-Jones.......Sydelle Pittas
Mabelle McAllister.....Patricia Pellows
Martha Harper...............Alice Duffy
Enid Muller...............Lynne Moulton
Emilie...............Eliza Rose Fichter
Shirley Timmreck's "Circles of Time" is a fragile butterfly of a play, as delicate and vulnerable as her quartet of residents at the Twin Oaks Retirement Home --- women with little left but memories who know that unless forced to transfer to a nursing-home, there is only one way any of them will leave the Home. The production --- with a lovely, airy set by Brynna Bloomfield and Janet Bobscean's frilly, flowing costumes --- is an ambitious attempt by Kaplan/Bullins Productions to give these mostly Equity actors a chance to deal with ageing and death in theatrical terms.
At the center of the play is June Lewin, playing a new resident with a, what --- an obsession? a fantasy? or, perhaps, a formula, a technique for living through whatever life she has left? Act one sees her, in her first few days at the Home, as others do: from the outside. She is distant, often incoherent, and speaking at times to people only she can see. The Home's administrator (Lynne Moulton) worries that such a person will require special attention from the staff, attention a nursing-home (a warehouse for the dying) would be better able to provide.
But that staff (Robbie McCauley & George Pendleton III) --- a A Negro couple (This IS Alabama after all!) not yet ready to accept retirement --- see a special glimmer in this new resident and are willing to go the extra mile and even to hide their ministrations from an administrator who is more a bookkeeper than a person.
In act two, the three other residents in this wing (and the audience) are invited into this fantasy-world of circles in time --- or are they mere memories? lucid dreams? They are certainly healing experiences! For Patricia Pellows as a retired milliner it allows her to relive the long love-affair she had with a married man while making hats for First Ladies. It gives Sydelle Pittas, widowed by the war, a chance to tell her dead husband that he sired a lovely son. Even Alice Duffy's gruffly angry professor of English has her no-nonsense realist melt enough to admit her resentment at being the ugliest bridesmaid at all her friends' marriages.
Do they really re-live it? They certainly move and look and feel younger! Their whirling dance at midnight meetings might be the ungodly gift of an old, White Tituba --- but the exhausted quartet certainly looks brighter and better every morning after dancing all night! And all of this serves to prepare everyone for the entrance of Eliza Rose Ficter, stepping briefly through a solid pane of glass as .... well, that final mystery must be revealed only to paying customers!
"Circles of Time" is a fable teaching us all how to grow old with relaxed dignity. It's the sort of play you wish were really true. A butterfly of a play.
Why, I wonder, did the GLOBE send a hired assassin to smash it to bits with a baseball bat?
(I've heard that friends of cast-members had their interest dampen by second-thoughts after reading only that one review --- the only one that matters in Boston!) Doesn't all that effort from cast, producers, and from Director Daniel Gidron deserve to be judged on its own, instead of one warped reflection in a cracked mirror? Can't people make up Their OWN Minds anymore?
I mean, Why believe the GLOBE? Why believe even me when you can see and judge for yourselves?