Playwright Bathsheba Doran’s drama, Kin is a stunningly beautiful play about the complexity of relationships. Jules Aaron’s direction moves the play seamlessly and effortlessly from character to character and from the United States to Ireland. His direction is like an elegant game of chess. There is a “six degrees of separation” quality to the story and characters as they intertwine and cross into each other’s lives. Her play is intricately knitted and engages the audience. It is full of emotion, insight and has a touch of humor though I would not bill it as a comedy. I was captivated by the story, the direction and the strong acting of the nine member ensemble.
Doran gives us the complex relationship of a father and daughter in Anna, an adjunct professor of English and Colonel Adam. Melissa Collins’ Anna carries much of this finely wrought play, and Collins does a superb job as her character goes from neutral in the opening through to a nice arc. David Hunt Stafford, whose work I have followed, does a fine job as the absent father who is trying to connect with his daughter and undo the damage of having had to put the military first. They have their problems to resolve, and there are secrets which surface and threaten to unravel any semblance of a father-daughter relationship.
Jeff G. Rack’s simple, modern set with benches that the actors pulled out as they did their scenes which were like well -it vignettes worked to maintain a fluid simplicity through the emotional complexity. Bill Froggatt’s sound effects heightened the reality. Anna interacts with her close friend, Helena, a strange character who understands Anna and gets beneath her skin. They are such different characters. Anna is well-educated and publishing a tome on Keats wile Helena has a menial job while pursuing acting. But, Elizabeth Lande’s Helena is the leveler. Her emotional digging gets to Anna. We see layers delicately unpeel. And, Helena gets undone in the process.
Anna, takes up with Sean, a young man on the rebound from Ireland. Grinnell Morris brings heart and soul to his character and does not miss a beat with his Irish accent. As a physical trainer, he is hardly what Match.Com would pick for Anna, but they find they have much in common.
While Anna sees her father as cold and remote, Stafford infuses Adam with strong emotions as he struggles to be the father his daughter wants him to be. He has bridges to build to reach Anna. But, we see his loving side in his relationship with his lover and friend, Kay, so well-acted by the beautiful Luise Heath. She is his conscience. It was hard for me to believe she was indeed dying of cancer. Her Kay had too much love and life in her.
Linda, Sean’s agoraphobic mother in Ireland, had a tragic happening which we don’t learn about until the play reaches its arc. Each character undergoes a transformation and has an individual arc and the play itself builds upon those arcs to a climax and a meaningful and believable conclusion. Rhonda Lord, is convincing as the boozy, alcoholic woman who cannot leave her house. Whatever happened to her in the mist of the heather one night stunted her. She could not seem to overcome what had happened that dark night. No amount of therapy brought her peace or out into the world again until…
The one thing that bothered me in the story was the mystery with which Doran treated Linda’s past. There was too much of a supernatural explanation going on about the beast on the heather and “that night”.
Linda’s brother, Max, brought to life by John Combs, with an impeccable Irish accent that Combs sustained, was the protector. His character alone was uncomplicated. He was the buffer to Linda.
An audience member quipped about feeling like she was in a mental institute, and yes, almost everyone had an emotional issue to work through. And, it was a cathartic and a collective healing that finally brought a satisfying ending. Real life does not always work that neatly with conflicts resolved. Still, Kin made for a very enjoyable and entertaining evening.
Audrey Lindon for Examiner.com
September 30, 2013