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KIN is a special experience at Dobama

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)


Every once in a while a play comes along that, without histrionics, searching for laughs or mystery plot twists, resonates with the human connection.  “Kin,” now on stage at Dobama Theatre, is such a script.

Bathsheba Doran, the play’s author, has a wonderful sense of language selection, creates scenes that are clear in their intent, puts forth interactions that allow for understanding of the motivations of the speakers, and blends mostly two-person dialogues into a cohesive whole.

Take director Shannon Sindelar’s precise direction, add a creative set design by Tiffany Scribner, meaningful lighting by Marcus Dana, era and character right costumes by Jenniver Sparano, appropriate musical bridges by Richard Ingraham, and put them on stage with a superlative cast.   The result is an engaging evening of theatre.

“Kin” centers on Anna, a Texas-bred army brat and young Ivy League poetry scholar, who is having difficulty finding both her path to academic success and a person with whom to share her life.

In her search for career success, she writes a magnum academic opus with the deadly title: “Keats’s Punctuation.”  The issue becomes–how does one get such a tome published?

For someone to of share her life, after being harshly rejected by her egotistical collegiate mentor, she turns to internet dating sites.  Lo and behold a total mismatch, an Irish physical trainer, comes onto her screen and into her life.

What follows is a web of interactions which takes the viewer from the US to Ireland, and the intertwining of multiple relational stories that include mother-son, daughter-father, lover-lover, and husband-wife connections, as well as  forays into infidelity, rape, alcoholism, agoraphobia, and cancer.

On the surface this is a soap-opera type plot, but in the hands of a wordsmith like Doran, the result is an attention getting and keeping experience.

The landscape of the modern world and the meaning of kin and kinship sparkles.   The elusiveness of true human connection is probed.  The effect of family is examined.  There’s drama, there is pathos, and there are laughs.

Over a period of seven years and across two continents, we pleasurably watch a collage of interlocking lives come together for better or for worse.

Elena Kepner puts on the persona of Anna, and creates a real person who carries the weight of her past, hidden and exposed secrets, loyalties and confusion.  This is a nicely controlled performance that rings of character understanding.

Geoff Knox as Sean, Anna’s mismatched boyfriend, fully creates a character filled with a sense of gentleness and sensitivity, which, in spite of the odds, overcomes a lost-love and an upbringing filled with angst.

Lenne Snively, who along with Knox perform with consistent, understandable,  Irish accents, is superb as the agoraphobic Linda, Sean’s maligned, near alcoholic  mother.  There is a wonderful natural sense of being in her characterization.

Rachel Lee Kolis well-develops the role of Rachel, Anna’s boarding school friend.  This is a real Rachel, a ditsy, fragile young lady, desperate for attention, at all costs.

Pete Ferry is properly military-uptight as Anna’s father.  The rest of the cast all develop persons who are real and help move the story nicely along.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: KIN is one of those special scripts that happily gets a superb production at Dobama.  It’s a play for everyone, whether the viewer is looking for thoughtful moments, humorous interludes, or fine acting.  KIN is a must see evening of theater.

KIN runs through May 25, 2014 at Dobama Theatre.  Call 216-932-3396 or for tickets.