By Pat Launer
The arc of relationship is traced in “Kin,” by English-born, New York-based playwright Bathsheba Doran. Actually, it’s the arc of multiple relationships.
At first, the drama (spiked with comic moments) seems like a pastiche of duets, each pair at a certain point in their bond as friend, parent or lover. But gradually, we come to see the interrelatedness of all the characters. And that’s what Doran is after, showing us how much we need connection, but how difficult establishing and maintaining relationships can be, and how hard it is to be honest to others — and to yourself.
In aching, sometimes poetic language, she weaves together these various strands, two by two, into a vibrant tapestry, comprising different accents (Irish, Southern, General American), with characters who are stolid and uncommunicative (Adam, the colonel, whose wife described him as “a stone”) or weepily over-emotional (Helena, who grieves for her dog for years, and can’t get a grip on her acting career or her life).
At the center is Anna, who’s just finishing her doctoral dissertation on “Punctuation in Keats.” She craves recognition, publication — and a loving relationship. Her online search focuses on arcane, academic characteristics, but when she broadens her criteria (on the advice of lovelorn, self-absorbed Helena), she meets Sean, an Irish-born personal trainer.
Doran tracks their evolving attachment, with detours to friends and family (Anna’s widowed father, Adam — and his long-time, occasional lover, Kay; Sean’s abandoned, agoraphobic mother, Linda, trapped in her cliffside Irish home, still suffering from a long-ago predatory attack, a reaction that alienated her husband and her church) and former lovers (Rachel, whom Sean can’t quite get out of his head; Anna’s chauvinistic, condescending colleague, Simon).
We meet them all, we get a strong sense of the wide circle that defines Family — kith and kin — in these days of a shrinking electronic world that only heightens our inherent difficulties in genuinely communicating.
The play, making its regional premiere at ion theatre, is clearly an ensemble piece. And ion has the ideal collective for the task: the first class in their in-demand Actor Academy. These experienced adult ‘students’ produced the entire show, creating the set, managing the box office, working the lights. ion’s executive artistic director, Claudio Raygoza, is at the helm, providing muscular but sensitive direction.
Not surprisingly, though the production is effective and engaging, there’s a range in skill level. Some are better with accents than others; some are better at retaining their lines. But all are deeply committed. Standout performances come from Rhianna Basore as the low-key, ever-searching Anna; Evan Kendig as unsure Sean; Donal Pugh (one of the ‘added’ cast members, not part of the Academy) as the emotionally ineffectual Adam; and Hannah Logan as the weepy, needy Helena.
There’s a great deal to connect to in this intriguing double-helix of uneasy interactions.
- “Kin” runs through April 4 at ion theatre, on the edge of Hillcrest
- Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Saturday
- Tickets ($25) are available at 619-600-5020 or online at www.iontheatre.com
- Running time: 100 min.
Pat Launer is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at www.patteproductions.com.
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