Kiss Review - An Alternate Universe is Born

Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderon comes by his knowledge of political manipulation and violence through personal, and sometimes painful, experience. As a man born during the height of Salvador Allende’s left-wing Popular Unity Alliance, and growing up under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Calderon has seen first-hand how brutal political systems function.

Kevin Matthew Reyes and Kristin Couture - Photo by Enci Box

The producers of KISS have requested that reviewers keep the plot under wraps. To this end, programs were given to the audience after the show, rather than before. Suffice it to say that the play takes place in Damascus, Syria, in 2015. KISS shines as a study of the many facets of life and how they reflect off each other. Orwell would certainly have enjoyed this tale, where nothing is as it seems and words have hidden meanings.

Max Lloyd-Jones and Kevin Matthew Reyes (Front); Kristin Courture and Natali Anna (Rear) - Photo by Enci Box

Calderon delves into ways people may deal with living in a house of mirrors, where the picture in the looking glass seems real until the same image flashes onto the next mirror a moment later - and the two images are somehow very different. Perhaps it would be appropriate to see KISS as if the events were the letters of an alphabet which have been shaken in an empty jar and scattered to the four winds. Although the letters give the illusion of being random, there is clearly a plan which Calderon is following – and a message which he is sending to the audience.

Kristin Couture and Natali Anna - Photo by Enci Box

KISS is an intriguing and fascinating play reminiscent of Becket at his best – and a whole flock of existentialist playwrights at their most abstract. Even though the story hops from incident to incident, Calderon manages to inject considerable humor into the piece. It is both foolish and insightful – and certainly worth a trip to the theater to see the only play which Calderon wrote in English.

Kristin Couture and Max Lloyd-Jones - Photo by Enci Box

The talented cast is picture perfect, besides being very energetic. Kristen Couture, Kevin Matthew Reyes, Max Lloyd-Jones, and Natali Anna portray the four principals with gusto and skill and make even the silliest of lines a bounty of humor. Whether KISS is a comedic tragedy or a tragic comedy is difficult to discern and will likely end up being up to each individual audience member to decide.

Kristin Couture, Natali Anna, Kevin Matthew Reyes, and Max Lloyd-Jones - Photo by Enci Box

Nina Caussa’s scenic design is both plush and comfy and handles the vicissitudes of the story very effectively. Raquel Barreto’s costumes are a movable feast, and the production crew does a terrific job of cuddling the actors in this unpredictable tale. Perhaps major credit belongs to director Bart DeLorenzo, who captures Calderon’s concept with a deft hand and makes the play – which many have described as confusing - as clear as the hours before the dawn.

KISS runs through June 18, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Extra performances are planned for May 17 and June 7 (Wednesdays) at 8 p.m. and May 25 (Thursday) at 8 p.m. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets range from $25 to $34. For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 Ext. 2 or go online.

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