By Bathsheba Doran
Directed by Gilmer McCormick
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Susan McNeese Lynch & Sean Childress in Kin. Photo courtesy Eve Theatre Company.
Eve Theater Company opens its fifth season with Bathsheba Doran’s play Kin. Year five always seems to be a milepost: a time for a company to take stock of itself and others. So I would note that this production seems to represent an important moment of maturity and ambition for Eve. It reaches for a subtlety and emotional range greater than most of their previous efforts. The company’s mission of a focus on women led to early productions that featured small groups of women hermetically observed: aging prostitutes on a shared bench, or friends moving through marriage and divorces through the years. Most were casts of only women.
Kin is an episodically structured exploration of a series of characters, connected in ways that we must discover as the narrative plays out. Eventually we come to understand that at its core the play is a love story, or, more precisely, a relationship story about Anna (Leila Toba) and Sean (Ian Weber), which we will discover through patience and understanding. The play meanders around various family members with deliberate casualness, carefully revealing the history of the two lover’s families. Sean is Irish, and his mother, Linda (Susan McNeese Lynch) and uncle Max (Sean Childress) still live there, while Anna’s people are her neurotic best friend, Helena (Kim Butterweck), and distant Army Colonel father, Adam (Phil Lynch).
Although there are a few scenes that employ several characters, most of what we witness are important exchanges between two characters at a time. They are the opportunity for both exposition and the finer aspects of performance. The larger revelations are rendered with the same delicacy as the smaller character moments, with only a few instances of “big” emotional outbursts. Performed without an intermission, all the individual moments add up to a satisfying finish imbued with equal parts hope and rueful dread. As one line in the play puts it: “Seemingly insignificant details result in beauty.”
The ensemble cast is consistently fine, although there was a struggle for consistency in the Irish accents on display – Mr. Weber won honors on that point. Still, there are particular bits that will live in my memory longer: Sean Childress’s Max telling Ian Weber’s Sean about his first love; Phil Lynch and Diane Stretz-Thurmond as husband and wife as she faces the end of her battle with terminal illness; Susan McNeese Lynch meeting Adam for the first time and telling him the intensely personal story behind her agoraphobia. Kim Butterweck’s Helena is a hot mess of frantic personality tics, but Butterweck grounds her emotionally, and maintains the troubled look in her eyes even when she retreats into the background. Leila Toba’s Anna is a cypher at first. We see her rejected by her lover (the excellent but under-used Jacob Cooper) in a breathtaking display of over-intellectualized rationalization, and as a supportive friend to Helena, but the character comes more into focus in the middle of the play, as we realize she is its center. Ian Weber nicely underplays alongside her as Sean, but Anna’s journey is eventually revealed as the lynchpin of the spare and tenuous plot, and Toba makes sense of the character’s conflict and resolution.
Director Gilmer McCormick stages the play with the entire ensemble present onstage throughout, moving in and out of the spotlight and sometimes populating the scene around other characters. The blocking was carefully choreographed and executed with precision. Keeping everyone in front of the audience at all times subtly underscores the connections that will be delineated in the action of the play. McCormick makes excellent use of music through Stephen Reinhardt’s very fine sound design.
Written by a woman, directed by a woman, and featuring three women as central characters, Kin inarguably fits the Eve Theatre Company mission, but it also represents a more expansive taste in material that reaches further and achieves more than much of what has preceded it in the Eve repertoire. It is a beautiful show with a tender heart.
Featuring: Kim Butterweck, Sean Childress, Jacob Cooper, Susan McNeese Lynch, Phil Lynch, Diane Stretz-Thurmond, Leila Toba and Ian Weber.
Nov. 3 @ 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 @ 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 5 @ 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 6 @ 2:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 @ 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 11 @ 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 12 @ 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 13 @ 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are available through the The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts box office, 584-7777. $22, general admission; $19, students, seniors and groups of 10 or more.
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40204
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.