Saturday, March 19, 2011


We first meet Anna (Kristen Bush) as she, a stony and/or stoic adjunct, is being dumped by an older professor, Simon (Matthew Rauch), who we will never see again. That's fine: in the next hundred minutes of Bathsheba Doran's Kin, nearly a decade of similar moments -- both crucial and tangential to Anna's life -- fly by, ultimately illustrating, under Sam Gold's brilliant direction, how "seemingly insignificant details indicate beauty" (the central thesis of Anna's esoteric book about Keats's punctuation). Very little happens in the final scene, a wedding between Anna and the Irish personal trainer Sean (Patch Darragh), and yet it oozes significance: Anna's artsy best friend, Helena (Laura Heisler), gives a speech that is informed by her own chance connection with a wild bear; Anna's father, Adam (Cotter Smith), has successfully re-entered his daughter's life (after a disastrous Christmas); and Sean's mother, Linda (Suzanne Bertish), has come to see them off, a decision made all the more momentous due to her agoraphobia -- and the fact that the wedding is taking place on the foggy cliffs where she was raped so many years ago. It is a scene dripping with history, or moments, and isn't that, after all, what connects us? What really allows us not only to know one another, but to call each other kin?

Doran's relaxed dialogue -- which has very little urgency behind it -- is reminiscent of Annie Baker's hyperrealism, and is well-suited to Gold's light touch, which uses Paul Steinberg's rectangular prism of a set to essentially "frame" each scene as a photograph (which one might then insert into, say, a memory palace). Only rarely are these moments out of focus, though the jumps between time and character make it hard to get a bead on people like Kay (Kit Flanagan). More often, the scenes are crisp and precise: Rachel (Molly Ward) only shows up once, but in that moment, we understand both why Sean longs for her, his former flame, and why things between them -- she was a bottle-a-day alcoholic -- fizzled out. Moments like those serve as hinges for the play's drama, showing us not only the possibilities, but the realities; they allow Doran to easily shift between showing us the fully in love Anna and her counterpart, a panic-attacked girl with second thoughts, without the table-setting scenes that a drama usually uses to segue between these points.

Kin resembles a highlights reel assembled by someone who wasn't always watching the game: Rachel Getting Married, say, but over the course of ten years. It's a humble and quiet play that manages to scream the magnificent beauty of life to its audience, and despite a few garbled moments, we get the picture, loud and clear.

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