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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
For Keith, the central character in Scottish playwright Simon Farquhar's Rainbow Kiss, his one night stand with the sexy Shazza, a part-time beautician he picked up in a bar, exacerbates the grayness of his lonely and impoverished life as a single father in a dead-end job. What begins as a night of exciting sex is doomed to disaster when the encounter somehow ignites Keith's extreme loneliness, so that Shazza becomes the object of ALL his desires, not just his sexual fantasies but the means for having the normal relationship that has eluded him.
What we have is a reversal of the male female roles: the slam bang, thank you ma'am male and the more eager for commitment female. For Keith attraction turns into infatuation, an infatuation that asks for more than Shazza is prepared to bring to the shabby couch of his dingy Aberdeen flat. She's willing to enjoy an occasional repeat of the sleazy sex games that are quite graphically illustrated on stage, but for the long haul she has her own plans; specifically a more upscale life with the man she's living with and expects to marry.
This New York premiere of Farquhar's first play (it premiered at London's Royal Court) is strictly for audiences who like visceral, often hard to watch stories— shades of Edward Bond, Mark Ravenhill and films by Quentin Tarantino. The use of the " F" word makes David Mamet's dialogue sound like that of an angelic choir boy. In fact, the original title Fuck You was quite apt and though Rainbow Kiss sounds more acceptable for advertising purposes, is actually an even grittier title since it is a slang term for a kinky sex practice.
Besides the sexually explicit scenes and the expletive peppered dialogue that sent the couple sitting next to me fleeing the theater at the intermission, Rainbow Kiss is also a dour picture of the underbelly of the Aberdeen that's been associated with the oil boom and tourism, an Aberdeen of untermenschen who drink and drug too much, earn too little and often become subject to the brutalities of ax and razor blade wielding money lenders like Scobie (Michael Cates, so creepy that just looking at him sends chills up your spine).
My caveats aside, Rainbow Kiss is an impressive addition to the true grit drama genre that's likely to stay with you long after you've forgotten lighter weight more conventionally entertaining fare. In Keith's case especially, the cuss words that blanket the dialogue are somehow meaningful expressions of the ever present despair and emotional fragility that imbue his descent from joyous excitement into darkness with what at times approaches a kind of poetry.
The depressing circumstances notwithstanding there's also a good deal of humor, albeit in a decidedly dark shade. Much of that humor comes from Keith's neighbor Murdo, (Robert Hogan completing the overall excellence of the cast), the only truly caring person in his life. Unsurprisingly, Murdo is also a haunted loser so that it's hard to say which of the two men is more miserable and depressed than the other. And, Rainbow Kiss is also suspenseful. Sure, Keith's downbeat trajectory is inevitable from the first reference to Double Indemnity (Keith's favorite when he took film courses as a student at the local university -- studies which led to nowhere, thanks to an unwise marriage and lack of local opportunities for creative work) — but you never really know just what bombs will go off in that grungy flat.
Director Will Frears and his design team have managed to squeeze Farquhar's slice of life in the back alleys of Aberdeen's oil fueled prosperity into the tiny playing area, complete with a grimy window fronted by a veranda that invites suicidal thoughts and from which, as Keith put it "on a clear day you can see the pavement." A pair of hard-working prop movers expeditiously clear and refurbish Thomas Lynch's smartly detailed unit set between scenes, accompanied by somewhat too frenetic incidental music.
My shout-out for the cast bears repeating, especially Peter Scanavino's wrenching always on stage performance. With Michael Cates the quartet's only Scotsman, dialect coach Stephen Gabis deserves his own standing ovation. Keith, Shazza and Mundo and most assuredly Scobie, aren't people you'd be likely to seek out as friends, but these actors, the director and the playwright see to it that you won't be likely to forget them any time soon.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
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The Playbill Broadway YearBook
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