Scary Bear, Unlikely Lovers Add Mystery to ‘Kin’: Jeremy Gerard

Bill Buell and Suzanne Bertish
Bill Buell and Suzanne Bertish in "Kin." Photographer: Joan Marcus/Publicity Office via Bloomberg

When the neurotic, possibly crazy woman began communing with the slightly edgy bear, ‘Kin’ irrevocably won me over.

As Shakespeare showed in “The Winter’s Tale,” there’s nothing quite like a bear to spice up a romance.

In Bathsheba Doran’s terrific new play, having its premiere at New York’s Playwrights Horizons, that mysterious bear has nothing to do with the plot. And Helena, the woman in the scene, isn’t even the heroine, who’s nowhere to be seen.

One of the charms of “Kin” is the way in which a dozen disparate events involving as many characters, eventually fall in place to make a compelling love story.

At the center are Anna, an Ivy League academic, and Sean, an Irish-born personal trainer. The play begins with Anna’s brutal dumping by her Columbia University mentor. Her problems pale beside Helena’s. Her dog has just died and her acting career is a non-starter. A paragon of self-involvement, she’s a lousy best friend -- the kind you can’t shake off.

Sean has long telephone conversations with his loving mother, whose childhood trauma has left her a recluse on the mist-enshrouded Irish coast, cared for by her brother.

As Anna and Sean very tentatively carve out a future for themselves, we will also meet her father, a colonel with security clearance; his lover, a woman dying of cancer; and Sean’s ex-girlfriend.

Fabulous Bear

They play key roles in assuring the sweet ending that a romance demands.

The director, Sam Gold, proves his mettle with a fluid production that slowly (too slowly in Act I) yet deliberately comes into focus. As Sean and Anna, Patch Darragh and Kristen Bush are endearingly intense. The show benefits from superb performances by Laura Heisler (Helena), Cotter Smith (the colonel), Kit Flanagan (his lover) and especially Suzanne Bertish and Bill Buell as Sean’s down-to-earth mom and uncle.

I do wish I knew who played that excellent bear.

Through April 3 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St. Information: +1-212-279-4200; Rating: **1/2

What the Stars Mean:
****        Excellent
***         Very Good
**          Average
*           Not So Good
(No stars)  Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is an editor and critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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