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A CurtainUp Review

By Macey Levin

The galaxies. . .these are the places where science and spirit meet. ---Kyle
Tom Everett Scott,
Tom Everett Scott
(Photo: Carol Rosegg )
Kyle Kalbe stands in a spotlight on a bare stage, with eight clear spheres suspended above him suggesting an impressionistic galaxy. In an ingratiating manner he speaks of his two passions: astronomy and his wife Zoe. With a profession to which he is dedicated and a relationship that both stabilizes and frees him, he foresees a wonderful life. Until Zoe is murdered.

Within days, Kyle withdraws from his safe foundation into an isolated world in which he repels all attempts to touch him physically or emotionally. His journey from joy to painful depths and then to understanding is the plot of Touch by Toni Press-Coffman, currently at the Women's Project Theatre.

Unfolding in a series of extensive or overlapping monologues and flashbacks, Kyle's story is painful and insightful. He does not allow his childhood friend Bennie or Zoe's family into the new fabric of his life as Bennie and his sister-in-law Serena attempt to rescue him from his self-imposed exile. Instead, he works enormous hours and finds solace with Kathleen, a prostitute, but he avoids emotion and any hope for a comforting future.

Fittingly for an astronomer, the cosmos reflects Kyle's state of being; parallels are drawn between his life, astronomical configurations and phenomena. Kyle is also a devotee of John Keats whose poetry illumined the joys and pains of love and the fears associated with an unknown future. This defines Kyle's existence.

The play contains sharp and probing dialogue in which Kyle's anguish is explored. Press-Coffman has imposed a clear structure to the work that reaches aching climaxes and moments of profound release. She has a good ear for conversation and emotional statements, in particular between the two men. We come to know Kyle and Bennie, but the two women, especially Kathleen, are sketchily drawn.

As Kyle, Tom Everett Scott immediately draws us to him in a lengthy opening monologue in which he employs a full emotional spectrum to tell his story. Scott uses his charm and the remembrance of great sorrows to create an intimate relationship that carries the audience through Kyle's journey. It is a strong performance.

We are told that Kyle and Bennie are best friends; in fact, Bennie has been Kyle's only friend. Matthew Del Negro's work as Bennie is satisfactory in his line readings, but he and Scott lack the warmth and sense of common experience that lifelong friends would evince. It is a weakness that might be eliminated in time.

Yetta Gottesman as Serena is inconsistent; while some of her scenes are quite effective others feel more mechanical. Michele Ammon's Kathleen is interesting in that she is unlike the stereotypical prostitute; she is all business, but not hard or icily cynical.

Under Loretta Greco's straightforward direction the play moves well with minimal props, set pieces and simple blocking. Though some moments are given to self-indulgent acting, Greco makes Kyle and his loss important to us. Complementing her work is the uncluttered set design of Michael Brown and the effective tonal lighting of James Vermeulen.

Though it is an inconsistent production at certain levels, the flaws in the work are minor in contrast with the emotional journey offered by Touch.

Editor's Note: Readers might want to check out our annotated page of plays with science and math backgrounds or characters with scientifci careers.

Written by Toni Press-Coffman
Directed by Loretta Greco
Cast: Matthew Del Negro,Yetta Gottesman, Tom Everett Scott, Michele Ammon
Set Design: Michael Brown
Costume Design: Jeff Mahshie
Lighting Design: James Vermeulen
Sound & Original Music: Robert KaplowitzDesign:
Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes with one intermission
Women's Project Theatre, 424 W. 55th St. (west of 9th Ave), 212/239-6200
9/30/03-10/26/03; opening 10/09/03
Tue - Sat at 8pm; Sat & Sun at 3pm-- $45
Reviewed by Macey Levin based on October 8th press preview performance

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