The Kiss Me Curse
Written & Directed by Vin Morreale, Jr.
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Clockwise fron center: Tiffany Smith, Rick Fletcher, R. Wayne Hogue, Jr., Simeon Burke, Beau Solley, Tim Gooch, & Candace Kress in The Kiss Me Curse. Photo courtesy Little Colonel Playhouse.
Little Colonel Playhouse opens its 60th Anniversary season with a new play by Vin Morreale, Jr. after closing out the previous season with another of his works. The Kiss Me Curse is a tighter, more easily engaging script than the May production of All My Passions.
We meet Angela Buckner (Tiffany Smith) in a lounge at the Louisville International Airport. She makes a scatterbrained entrance that cannot help but draw the attention of Gene Watterson (R. Wayne Hogue, Jr.), a somewhat hapless, milquetoast fellow who at first finds Angela’s manner off-putting before he gets swept up by her undeniable appeal. He eventually learns that he has fallen victim to a curse placed on Angela: that when any man kisses her the two will fall madly in love, marry, and the husband will die in three months, leaving her a widow.
Gene is husband number 14…I think – the numbers are difficult to keep up with. Number 15 is Waddy Peytona (Rick Fletcher), and there are others, all members of “Angela’s Cadavers”, as husband 13, Snyder Crestwood (Tim Gooch) describes the motley crew of disembodied spirits who “haunt” her life. We don’t ever meet the entire roster, just the most recently deceased and the first: Jared (Simeon Burkes), who Angela stole from Maggie in high school. The curse was her revenge.
Morreale’s story is in the tradition of plays like Prelude to a Kiss, which also use supernatural phenomena to bring insight to the random and otherwise unexplained mysteries of love. Angela’s curse is an easy mirror for the frustrations of relationships that have permeated modern American society for the last few generations and made divorce commonplace. The premise works well in accomplishing this, and The Kiss Me Curse works beautifully for most of act one, drawing the audience in to the unusual premise with fresh humor and sharp dialogue.
No explanation is provided for the source of Maggie’s witchcraft, which is a bit distracting, and I wish that Morreale had made sense of why husbands 2-12 are absent from the ghost posse earlier than the play’s final moments. His use of local references in so many names also feels a little patronizing: kind of like how a performer in a concert calls out each city on a tour to pump up a crowd, it seems easy and not really all that clever. The action of the play could take place in any city with a large airport, and the device seems unworthy of the overall quality of Morreale’s writing, which displays a knack for dialogue that is pithy and insightful. At one point, when he is asked if he is a ghost, Snyder replies, “We prefer the term, Ethereal Americans.” Now that is clever, and with an underlying edge.
The play works very well until the ending drags out in two scenes that should have been one, with unfortunate redundancy and the underlying message hammered home more obviously than is necessary. All My Passions had a similar problem in not knowing how to end. I think Morreale makes his points well enough in the story without having to belabor the message. It feels particularly disappointing because, up until this point, the writing has been fairly economical.
As a director, Morreale nearly overcomes these difficulties by eliciting good work from a well-chosen cast. Tiffany Smith makes for an ingratiating lead, with the mix of sexual allure and disingenuousness required to sell the premise. The audience’s sympathies are with her in every moment. The husbands make for a good supporting ensemble, with Tim Gooch bringing an easy authority that makes him a de facto leader. Beau Solley also stands out as Pewee Valley crime boss Sligo Newcastle, although the “mafiaso” character seems more East Coast than rural Kentucky.
The biggest problem comes in the inconsistent use of a Narrator, given a relaxed, avuncular reading by Allen Schuler. His omniscient commentary is fine in act one, but then in the middle he is revealed to be a character in the story and disappears until the very end. His genial presence was helpful in holding the audience’s attention during scene changes, and he was missed in that function during his absence. Objective narration can so easily become unnecessary, and little that he said truly moved the action along, but Schuler’s work may have helped the audience to swallow the gimmicky premise early on by establishing a folksy tone, lending The Kiss Me Curse the context of a fable.
Whatever its faults, Little Colonel Players seem to have found a crowd-pleasing entry, and another opportunity to raise the bar by producing new plays.
The Kiss Me Curse
September 16, 17, 22, 23, & 24 at 7:30pm
September 18 & 25 at 2:00pm
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mount Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, Kentucky 400
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.