Friday, February 12, 2010

'Iron Kisses' delves into family dynamics

'Iron Kisses' delves into family dynamics

Just 2 actors and 4 characters will cover a lot of domestic ground

'Iron Kisses' delves into family dynamics

Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Friday, February 12, 2010 12:00 am

Family. Just the word conjures up images of conflict and comfort. Love that is intense and unconditional.

It's a subject that has long occupied playwright James Still, author of plays for adults and children, television programs for children, and of "Iron Kisses," which Invisible Theatre will open next week.

"Mysteries of family, issues of forgiveness," he said, talking by phone from his Seattle home.

"I've been writing long enough to realize that in many ways, I've always been writing about the dynamics of family."

"Iron Kisses" has all the elements of a normal family: the parents confounded by their adult children, and the children by their parents. Turmoil, arguments, love, pain and a unique relationship between siblings.

" 'Iron Kisses' is one of those plays I'm glad I wrote because I would have been envious of whomever had," said Still, who has been writing professionally for half of his 50 years.

"As a writer, I admire the craft in this play. I admire the seemingly simplicity. Yet it manages to go so deep. In this play, I am more focused on all the things that are powerful in it, rather than the flaws."

"Iron Kisses" has a compelling structure: Just two actors and four characters: the mom, the dad, the gay son who is about to marry his partner, and the daughter on the verge of a divorce.

PHOTOS BY TIM FULLER / INVISIBLE THEATRE Dwayne Palmer and Carrie Hill in Invisible Theatre's "Iron Kisses."
The subject of family has long occupied playwright James Still.

The actors switch characters in an instant. But don't worry about catching on.

"Within three to five minutes, the audience gets what's going on," Still said.

And while it opens with the parents struggling with their son's impending marriage to a man, there's more to it than that.

"It's about so much more than a gay character," Still said. "It's about the idea of marriage. How marriage is imperfect and challenging."

Still aimed to treat the parents fairly, giving a fuller, truer picture of the family.

"It would be easy to write a play about this particular family," he said. "The mom and dad are a little baffled by their gay son and are remorseful about him. The braver choice for me was how to write those parents with compassion rather than judgment. It's often rewarded to bash people who don't share our point of view."

That approach led him to the subject of forgiveness in the story.

"I was interested in, 'How do you forgive people who have quite a different view from your own?' " he said.

The play, said director Gail Fitzhugh, "has a very universal feel. It has everything to do with family, parents, siblings."

But don't expect a drama that's devoid of humor, she added.

"It walks the line carefully. There is humor in the relationships, and there's some sadness and some secrets. It's rich in that way."

If you go

• "Iron Kisses"

• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.

• Playwright: James Still.

• Director: Gail Fitzhugh.

• When: Previews at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; opens 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, through March 7.

• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

• Tickets: $16 for preview; $22 to $25 for regular performances.

• Reservations and information: 882-9721.

• Cast: Carrie Hill and Dwayne Palmer.

• Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.