‘Kin’ family drama at its best
|Griffin Theatre presents|
Review by Lauren Whalen
As the saying goes: when you marry someone, you also marry their family. In an age where marriage is both a hotly-contested issue and a parody as seen on reality TV, the decision becomes even more fraught. And every family has its secrets. Griffin Theatre Company’s Midwest premiere of Kin uses quiet moments, thoughtful dialogue and a skilled ensemble to explore one couple’s seven year-long pursuit to answer the question: should we (and our families) take the next big step?
The play begins with New York poetry professor Anna (Stacie Beth Green) getting dumped by her superior Simon (Tim Musachio). He rambles indecisively, getting crucial facts about Anna’s past wrong as she sits there mute. When Anna meets sensitive personal trainer Sean (Shane Kenyon), she flourishes romantically and professionally – yet the couple is hesitant to move forward. Since the death of her mother, Anna has struggled to connect with her uptight and distant father (John Fenner Mays), and her best friend Helena (Ann Sonneville) is a struggling actress whose incessant babbling barely masks crippling insecurity and uncertainty. Meanwhile, Sean faithfully keeps in touch with his family in Ireland – his alcoholic mother (Susan Monts-Bologna), still recovering from a 20-year-old trauma, and his uncle/surrogate father Max (Sandy Elias) – but wonders whether to bring Anna into the fold. Plus, what if he’s not over his ex (Rani Waterman), who overdosed when they were together?
Kin writer Bathsheba Doran has penned teleplays for the BBC and now HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” which may be why the play has the feel of an indie film: short on elaborate effects, long on explorations of the various relationships and interactions that make up an ordinary life. Even the funky soundtrack is in place, thanks to sound designer Rick Sims’ intro and outro songs of Kate Nash and other appropriately angsty artists. Only sporadically, however, does Kin indulge in navel-gazing. More often than not, it’s the opposite: two intelligent, funny people trying to untangle their own pasts and incorporate all of their loved ones into a shared existence. Most scenes in Kin only feature two or three individuals in various configurations, deeply exploring the buried and exposed truths of each person and relationship. Almost no stone is left unturned, though a major conflict between Anna and Sean is brought up prominently and then never spoken of again. It would have been even more satisfying to see them resolve this conflict, or at least hear about it.
Director Jess McLeod never lets the production elements overwhelm Kin’s star: its script. The single set is effectively utilized for various locations in the States and Ireland, thanks to Scott Davis’ attentive placement of a beautiful wood table and cabinet, various chairs and a treadmill. Sean Mallary’s lighting design is appropriately warm and friendly. And McLeod has handpicked one of the strongest ensembles I’ve seen all season – each actor highlights his or her character’s complexities with realism and relish. Plays like Kin are what seasoned actors dream of performing.
Though Waterman and Musachio have smaller parts (the latter also appears as a sympathetic Southerner), their brutal honesty shines. Ditto Maggie Cain as Anna’s father’s lover, whose cancer diagnosis has awarded her the freedom to set the man straight on connecting with his daughter. With dialect coach Kathy Logelin’s impeccable Irish dialect, Elias’ Max provides unending support to his sister and nephew without ever losing his sense of humor. Tragic figures at different ages, places in life and locations, Monts-Bologna and Sonneville are equal parts mirthful anid mournful – and their redemptions are brilliant to behold. In the center of it all are Anna and Sean, who sometimes lose track of their love in the midst of inner and outer conflict. Kenyon’s Sean is considerate and sincere, wanting happiness above all but afraid of losing everything if he takes too many chances. And Green’s lovely, rich speaking voice and expressive face highlight Anna’s fierce intelligence and ambition, and the tendency to lose herself in the bustle of life.
Dating is difficult, but what comes after brings its own challenges. When worlds collide, the results can be emotional and interesting. Griffin’s Kin guides the journey of love with a sure hand, slowly and steadily bringing everyone together. The outcomes are decidedly imperfect, but the beautiful script and terrific cast show that connection, however small, is always extraordinary.
Kin continues through June 10th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $35, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online at TheaterWit.org (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at GriffinTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours, includes 10-minute intermission)
All photos by Michael Brosilow
Stacie Beth Green (Anna), Tim Musachio (Simon/Gideon), Ann Sonneville (Helena), Shane Kenyon (Sean), Susan Monts-Bologna (Linda), Sandy Elias (Max), Maggie Cain (Kay), John Fenner Mays (Adam), Rani Waterman (Rachel)
behind the scenes
Jess McLeod (director); Sean Mallary (lighting); Emily Tarleton (costumes); Scott Davis (set); Rick Sims (sound design); Sarah Burnham (props); Becky Bishop (stage manager); Kathy Logelin (dialect coach); Jonathan Berry (production manager); Michael Trudeau (tech director); Joey deBettencourt (fight choreogarphy); Aaron Cannon (master electrician); Michael Brosilow (photos)