Kiss, a play by Guillermo Calderon, begins in Damascus, 2014, in a tastelessly decorated modern living room where two couples get together to watch TV. With ridiculously overacted gestures and wildly over- delivered dialogue, this scene has the audience laughing at the intentionally melodramatic scene. In typical soap operatic fashion, it is soon revealed that Youssif is in love with Hadeel and vice versa. They are trying desperately not to betray their lovers, Bana and Ahmed, who soon arrive; much emotional mayhem ensues. This is the first half of the play.
We soon see that Kiss isn’t over, and that this group of actors has been performing a script they found on the internet. We watch them discuss the meaning of the play with the author, and discover just how very wrong they got it.
How innocent we Americans are. How naive. How lucky. This is Syria, after all, where “kiss” means rape and where life is punctuated by the sound of bombs falling on a wrecked world. And where nobody speaks names aloud.
Youssif has been played by Daniel, in the “real” world the actors live in. But in the real world we live in, Daniel is being played by Anthony Martinez Briggs. And Ahmed has been played by Martin who is really Justin Jain. Bana has been played by Laura who is really Sarah Gilko. And Hadeel has been played by Andrea who is really Taysha Marie Canales. The playwright played by Lois Abdelmalek and her translator, Steven Rishard, round out the very nimble cast.
The director, Fadi Skeiker, has said that “The play asks: What does it mean when someone else is representing you?” And so the play is about acting as well as the political act of making theater as well as about getting it wrong through cultural appropriation. The impressive set was designed by Jian Jung, with projection design by and Alan Price.
[Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St] January 31-February 19, 2023; wilmatheater.org