Friday, February 19, 2010

'Iron Kisses' warmly embraces parents, kids who love each other

'Iron Kisses' warmly embraces parents, kids who love each other

'Iron Kisses' warmly embraces parents, kids who love each other

Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010

Dysfunctional families have made for some juicy theatrics - from "Medea" to "Next to Normal," we have families falling apart and deep in crisis.

So it's kind of a relief to see "Iron Kisses," Invisible Theatre's latest offering.

The James Still comic drama is a family-centric play that looks on the four members - parents, son, daughter - with humor and compassion. And they are our parents, our children, our next-door neighbors.

The parents struggle with a son who is gay - a fact of life that is foreign to them. But they love him, and while his lifestyle confuses them, it doesn't change their love.

The daughter is in an unhappy marriage, and the parents struggle with that, too - they just want their children to be happy.

And those children find humor in their parents, see them as set in their ways at times, exasperating, but they never doubt that they are loved by them.

Grief is part of the picture. So is joy, anger, regrets.

Whoa, normalcy. How weird is that?

Unfortunately, normalcy doesn't necessarily make for profound theater, and "Iron Kisses," while sweet and honest, doesn't uncover new territory or explore the depths of family life or feelings.

But that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.

Gail Fitzhugh has directed this play with restraint, never allowing it to slip into cliché or schmaltzville. And she had a lot of help from her two-person cast, Dwayne Palmer and Carrie Hill.

Still's conceit is a tough one: The actors portray both parents and children, each slipping quickly from one character to another and back again. Palmer and Hill managed to keep the characters clear with just a shift of a brow, a movement of the legs, or a softening of the voice. It was clear who was who within minutes into the 90-minute, one-act play. There are hefty monologues and long stretches where the actors are on stage alone, and Palmer and Hill never faltered.

This is a slight play, with an ending that fails to satisfy.

But it's also a warm embrace to parents who love their children and children who love them back.

Review

"Iron Kisses"

• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.

• Playwright: James Still.

• Director: Gail Fitzhugh.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, through March 7.

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

• Tickets: $22 to $25.

• Reservations and information: 882-9721.

• Cast: Carrie Hill and Dwayne Palmer.

• Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.