Photo by Carol Pratt
The ocean is a silent character in David Cale’s The History of Kisses at Studio Theatre, a one-man show that is currently enjoying its world premiere. Cale was inspired to write the semi-based-on-real-life piece after discovering an old photo of an unknown couple kissing on the deck of a boat. He imagines a world behind the photo filling in the details through an interconnected series of vignettes depicting romances between those in the photo, an alter-ego of himself called James, and the guests and staff working at James’ hotel. Connected by the common themes of love and a common element of the sea, Cale finds himself in the role of many characters ranging from a middle-aged divorcee to a retired Navy man-turned composer. The History of Kisses is a boat of mixed company merrily making its way to a brighter destination. The journey isn’t without a few turbulent waves however, and it suffers from a few bumps that slow down the show’s journey.
In a monologue towards the end, “James” admits that he is unsure how the show will turn out, noting that he simply aiming to create something beautiful. The show’s simple, yet elegant design certainly accomplishes that. The exposed brick and sand covered stage creates the canvas needed for Cale to paint his pictures of love, lust, and longing. With a simple positioning of his legs or a raise of an eyebrow Cale masterfully uses his body to take on the various personas in the show. The show aims for grace and it certainly accomplishes that.
However while striding about like a willow in the wind, the show struggles to maintain a consistent rhythm with long Irish Sea Shanties that bookmark each scene. I personally could of done with shorter or less frequent musical interludes. The constant break between action and song makes the show feel a lot longer than it actually is.
There are some truly great moments in the show- like a scene where Cale treats the act of making love as a basic cable cooking show. But they are too far between to leave a lasting impact.
Like Gilligan’s famed voyage, the show sets out on a “three hour tour” only to find itself a little lost at sea. Cale sets out on a noble mission and ultimately reaches his goal, but not without a few diversions along the way.