Kin

Kin at Theater Wit, ChicagoWritten by Bathsheba Doran

Directed by Jess McLeod

At Theater Wit, Chicago

They’re the people we love, flaws and all.

For every couple, there’s an entire solar system of people orbiting them. Pulled in by the gravitational attraction of vested interests and familial connections, these people typically have quite a bit to say about said couple. It is primarily through this lens that we learn about the central pair in Bathsheba Doran’s Kin. Rarely do we see the actual couple together. Instead, it’s the people on both sides who have been there for them through thick and thin from past to present who provide the critical insight into the complexities of relationships and what it means when two become one. It’s a nuanced—if at times messy—look that spans seven years and two continents to tease out the connections that make us who we are—for better and for worse.

Stacie Green & Shane Kenyon in Kin at Theater Wit

An episodic narrative that skips about several lives to focus on moments grand and small to study their resonance, it begins with a defining moment for one half of the couple at the core. Anna (Stacie Beth Green) is a promising grad student being dumped by her poetry professor (Tim Musachio) with his babbling whirlwind of self realization about the nature of relationships. Her best friend and comfort since boarding school is the flakey would-be actress Helena (Ann Sonneville) with whom she has bonded over mutual misery for years. When happiness enters Anna’s life in the form of the Irish personal trainer Sean (Shane Kenyon), it threatens not only her relationship with Helena but creates a ripple effect that extends outward to her family and his. Back in Ireland Sean’s agoraphobic mother (Susan Monts-Bolongna) worries about her son across the pond but assures her brother Max (Sandy Elias) that since she was sure to set the bar for happiness low, her son has nowhere to go but up.

Sandy Elias and Susan Monts Bologna in Kin at Theater LitOver the course of the seven year arc, Anna’s faith in relationships is tested when the truth of her parent’s mutual infidelity is exposed, while Sean wonders about whether or not he’ll ever stop dreaming of other women. Anna’s growing success, the exposure of her parent’s infidelity, her father’s coldness, Sean’s insecurity, Helena’s depression, Anna’s father’s mistress’ cancer…it’s all a lot to track and follow. There’s a few extraneous scenes and perhaps a one  too many characters in Doran’s script and at times it threatens to derail from its core, but thankfully we are quickly pulled back by the emotional gravity at the center.

Like The Last Five Years, Kin dabbles a little with nonlinear time and keeps its oblique viewpoint of the couple intact for much of the production. The scenic design by Scott Davis is a fascinatingly surreal mix-up of indoor and outdoor spaces blended together, perfectly allowing for a multi-layered story to take place within. As a whole it’s an interesting conceit through which to illustrate the fitful and complicated path towards happiness. A path undertaken by two people with no small amount of baggage, and it’s fascinating to see that baggage’s point of origin and wonder if it can ever be surmounted.

Sublime performances abound in Kin—everyone is at the top of their game (even the somewhat overly ancillary characters I mentioned earlier are redeemed—particularly Maggie Cain as a dying former mistress). This is no more apparent than in Susan Monts-Bolongna as Sean’s wryly drunk Irish mother who has a painful past of her own. It’s a lovely, endearing performance suffused with subtle nuance even when she’s brimming and brash. As the couple, Green and Kenyon are studies in conflict and chemistry with everyone around them. McCleod deserves credit for keeping the ensemble so tight in the light of such complicated and idiosyncratic source material.

Shane Kenyon & Susan Monts-Bologna in Kin at Theater Wit

There’s the family we get and the family we make, and Kin has the audacious goal of studying that dynamic from the inside out. It does this more successfully than not—and not without a deference to those aforementioned performances, staging and direction. All endings are beginnings for this constellation. With plenty of insight, humor and honesty, Kin is a sympathetic look at the ties that bind and also set us free.

Highly Recommended.

Review by Clint May

Date Reviewed: May 6, 2012

For more info check out the Kin page on www.theaterwit.org

At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL 60657; call 773.975.8150 or visit www.theaterwit.com; tickets $25 (discounted student and group rates available); performances Thursday thru Saturday 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm; running time 2 hours with intermission.