Sunday, April 3, 2011

In 'Kin,' Enduring Relationship Problems

Anna (Kristen Bush) has a dilemma that best friend, Helena (Laura Heisler), tries to help her with in "Kin." Photos by Joan Marcus.

BY TAMARA BECK

ANNA (Kristen Bush),
a promising young academic at Columbia University, has a less promising social life.

In fact, her choice of men, as demonstrated in the very funny opening scene of “Kin” is clearly not very good. Simon (Matthew Rauch), a self-absorbed professor, breaks up with her in a near monologue of pompous clich├ęs. (See a video at http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/video2.asp?eventid=35)

Looking for a romantic relationship, Anna turns to the Internet. Owing to many more unsuccessful encounters with academic types, she is forced to “change her search criteria,” as she tells her best friend, Helena (Laura Heisler).

Helena is a smart, troubled and talented would-be actress who champions Anna’s choice of anyone but a literary fellow. “You should be with an acrobat,” she suggests. Despite her own advice, though, Helena does not warm to Sean (Patch Darragh), the personal trainer from Ireland with whom Anna winds up.

Sean (Patch Darragh) and Anna (Kristen Bush) try to find their way in "Kin."

Adam (Cotter Smith), Anna’s widower father, is as uncomfortable with Sean as Helena is. Sean’s mother, Linda (Suzanne Bertish), who lives in Ireland, a skittish shut-in since an incident long ago, overcomes her fears for the sake of her son. Is there love in the air for these two lonely hearts?

Bathsheba Doran’s drama, “Kin,” in its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons’ Mainstage Theater and extended through 17 April, covers a long span of years. Over the course of those many years, Sean and Anna persevere through life’s ups and downs.

KB rides these ups and downs with finesse. Her Anna is poised and intelligent. In fact, so true is the acting in “Kin” that all of the players and their characters are seamlessly enmeshed.

Linda (Suzanne Bertish) and Adam (Cotter Smith) are concerned about their respective children in "Kin."

The smaller roles are as well-defined as the larger parts. Bill Buell as Sean’s uncle Matt and Kit Flanagan as Adam’s friend and longtime lover, both build complete and honest characterizations. Molly Ward, in a bit part, as Sean’s ex-girlfriend, Rachel, is genuine.

“Kin” tells its stories slowly, with a love of the telling and the words it takes to reveal its characters’ lives. BD’s storytelling is concise and precise. At every turn, “Kin” offers something surprising about its characters and the ordinary complications of their lives. It is a large drama in a short form, well-written and perfectly paced.

The versatile sets by Paul Steinberg paint exquisite, minimalist pictures of each location of the play.

Visit www.playwrightshorizons.org to learn more about “Kin.”

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