Repertory Philippines’ “Stage Kiss” Is The Fun Valentine’s Romp You Need To See This February
In this darling of a romcom, Carlos Siguion-Reyna directs a capable ensemble led by the illustrious Missy Maramara
In Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss, there are approximately 288 kisses. Any member of the audience is bound to have at least one favorite; I, personally, have a handful. I love best the kisses that happen with hesitation, the ones that are accompanied with searching eyes, the ones that take place immediately after someone’s look on the other’s lip lingers a second too long. The play, which opens Repertory Philippines’ 83rd season and is directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna in his Repertory debut, is about kisses—those that happen in onstage in front of theatregoers, and those that happen in rehearsal rooms and on the other side of the curtain—but, of course, it’s not just about kisses.
Stage Kiss, which premiered in Chicago in April 2011, finds ex-lover actors in an awkward situation: They’re to play ex-lovers opposite each other in a flop 1930s melodrama and must share a series of kisses. The story and relationship that they’re nurturing onstage becomes eerily similar to the story they’re trying to resist in real life, until their stage kisses become real ones. So Stage Kiss is decidedly about kisses, yes. But again: It’s not just about that.
It’s about theatre, and marriage, and finding truth above the noise. It’s about a woman’s quest for authenticity, as the show’s director likes to say. It’s about temptation, showmances, and the fine line between fantasy and reality. It’s about actors. It’s about what we think we know about the person we love, and the kind of person they can be under different lights. Stage Kiss puts together all these things into a two-hour backstage farce, uproarious and packed with physical comedy, and sends its audiences clutching their stomachs and struggling to breathe after laughing too much. The show’s comedy starts strong and remains strong, with tender, quiet moments peppered in between louder, bigger ones.
Throughout the show’s duration, the ensemble’s chemistry rarely falters, staying fresh and vibrant, with earnest performances handed in by everyone on stage, led most capably by the illustrious Missy Maramara. Those familiar with the local theatre scene will be pleased to see her act opposite her Stop Kiss costar Tarek El Tayech once more, as well as Robbie Guevara, who plays the husband. Rounding out the cast are Jamie Wilson, Andres Borromeo, Justine Narciso, Mica Pineda, and Nick Nañgit, who each get their moments.
There’s something innately magnetic about shows within a show, whether it’s on television, as Aaron Sorkin’s body of work will demonstrate, or on the theatre stage, as Kiss Me, Kate and Noises Off prove. Stage Kiss is no exception. There’s a kind of pleasure to be gained from seeing a side of high-pressure environments we normally never get to see, like the inner workings of a weekly comedy sketch show or the goings-on at a play. In Stage Kiss, it’s taken even further by zeroing in on the central relationship of the play within the play, two characters simply named He and She. They act badly and bigly, with huge, drawn out gestures and heightened accents to boot. They kiss, not without a wary look in their eyes at first, until it becomes so familiar that it’s all they know how to do.
But the show, however enjoyable, isn’t without fault, though much of it is due to the material itself—one revelation towards the end of the actual play might not land well for some audience members. Siguion-Reyna elevates the material to the best of his capability, and his loving treatment of the cast, characters, and the source material shows in the stellar performances each cast member gives. It’s a show that lets its actors have fun and, as a result, lets the audience join in on that.
In the end, Stage Kiss is a must-see show. It’s a worthwhile time at the theatre, with its delightfully chaotic energy a weirdly soothing balm to aching, weary hearts, especially in this time when hearts, chocolates, and flowers abound.
Stage Kiss is playing at Onstage Greenbelt until March 1, 2020. Tickets are available at Ticketworld.