Sometimes theatre is about the grand message, and sometimes it’s just about having a gay old time. Perfecting the Kiss is definitely the latter. In this off-off Broadway backstage farce we see the egos and triviality of independent small-time theatre battling it out for attention. Directors meddle, cast members connive, writers over-write, stage managers are overlooked by everyone. It all whips up swiftly into a hurricane of showmances, heart-ache and indignity. This is a very funny play, particularly for anyone who has ever had to produce theatre for less than three thousand dollars. The laughter is contagious, the cast is great, and the whole thing barrels along at a winning pace. Mind the Gap Theatre have done something rather good here.
Writer Harvest Carruthers (Hugo Trebels) has written a play and hired Edwina O’Halloran (Janette Johnston) to direct it. She is in love with her lead actor Mike Porter (George Redner), who in turn falls in love with co-star Jonah (Patrick Harman). Jonah then falls in love with Edwina, and stage manager Helen (Helen McMillan) falls for Harvest, but he has already also fallen for Jonah. A juicy love pentagram is primed and ready to go. As preparations for the play escalate, a scene in which the two male leads must kiss gets increasingly more and more rehearsal time devoted to it, raising the temperature of the company ever higher and higher. As opening night looms, domino after domino is set in anticipation, primed and ready to fall.
Director Paula D’Alessandris has assembled a cast here that appears to have none of the petty back and forth of their fictional counterparts. This doesn’t, however, stop them from embodying those personalities to hilarious effect. They are unanimously funny, and endearing, adroit in their delivery and unstoppably energetic. George Redner deadpans wonderfully, Janette Johnston exudes comic stress even while petulantly claiming otherwise, Hugo Trebels is the epitome of writerly pretension, Patrick Harman is marvelously doe-eyed over-actor, and Helen McMillan is a hilarious victim. This play flies by, and never lets up.
Mind the Gap accomplish exactly what they set out to do here. This show is unlikely to break the mold, change your life, or make you rethink your every belief, but it will make you laugh… it will make you laugh a lot. Writer Scott C. Sickles has a background in sitcom writing, and this is precisely what Perfecting the Kiss feels like. Gag follows gag follows gag, which follows gag. Character comedy powered by verbal dynamism, physical ridiculousness and good old-fashioned silliness. There are a few moments of structural irregularity, largely in the first act, but once the groundwork is laid the characters are free to cavort. And cavort they do. Perfecting the Kiss is a no nonsense evening of nonsense theatre that bursts fun at the seams. Catch it if you can.