Total Rating: 
April 29, 2017
June 18, 2017
Los Angeles
Odyssey Theater Ensemble
Theater Type: 
Odyssey Theater
Theater Address: 
2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard
Running Time: 
90 min
Guillermo Calderon
Bart DeLorenzo

Kiss, by Guillermo Calderon, begins as a parody of a telenovela, with two young couples dealing with their complicated love lives in an intense but clueless way. The play, which is set in 2014 Damascus, is intermittently funny, silly, impassioned, and melodramatic. But just as its banality begins to get on your nerves, the way most soap operas do, Calderon executes a sleight of hand and turns the piece into something unexpected: a mordant and ironical political fable.

Thanks to The Odyssey Theater Ensemble, local theatergoers have now been introduced to the work of Calderon, whose plays and movie scripts (“Neruda”) have made him something of an international star. The Chilean-born writer, who now splits his time between Santiago, New York, and Hollywood, has written Kiss in English, but it’s an English that is slightly odd and anachronistic (“I want to see you eat, I want to lick your plate until it’s completely clean!” is how one of the youngsters in the play swears her undying love.)

The youngsters, we learn in Calderon’s sudden switch from farce to reality, are actors rehearsing a play they have found on the internet, “Boosa,” Arabic for kiss. The play, they learn in a Skype call to the reclusive playwright, was written in 2013 when Syria’s past and present was being destroyed by war. The death of its culture included the death of the Syrian theater world; “Boosa” could only be performed in living rooms and bombed-out apartments as a “fantasy,” a “space for nostalgia” in which the audience could feel something besides war.

Calderon doesn’t stop there; he keeps going deeper and deeper into the world of the play, revealing the horror that lies at its heart, the cruelty and monstrousness of the Assad regime. In fact, the last line of Kiss, which is spoken by an actress named Laura, is “I would rather be stabbed than live under the rule of this bastard.”

The offbeat and complex Kiss is not an easy play to mount, but thanks to the expert and inventive direction of Bart DeLorenzo and to the superb work of its young actors, many of whom are sure to go on to stardom, this comes off as one of the most compelling and provocative plays Los Angeles has seen in recent years.

Kristin Couture, Kevin Matthew Reyes, Max Lloyd-Jones, Natali Anna, Cynthia Yelle, Nagham Wehbe
Set: Nina Caussa; Costumes: Raquel Barretto; Lighting: Katelan Braymer
Willard Manus
Date Reviewed: 
April 2017