A Kind Kind Man
nytheatre.com review by Jonny Cigar
February 24, 2011
Toothpaste is the new Girl Scout cookie in Catherine Weingarten’s play A Kind Kind Man, a twist on the early childhood nightmare-inspiring fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood." And the protagonist, Flora—a would be Girl Scout—in this scenario is a 14-year-old with uncharacteristically young sexual desires, selling “White Sexy Face” toothpaste, which comes in just two flavors, “Sexy Strawberry” and “Bitchin’ Blueberry.”
The wolf-in-waiting is a regular Joe named Willard, and when Flora appears at his doorstep, his midlife-crisis-ridden life dissolves into possibilities: Flora, the scrumptious Little Red treat he’s been waiting for, taunting him with her “sweet tubes of heavenly bliss” (he means the toothpaste, folks).
As this modern take on an old fairy tale unravels, the characters in this comedy of errors blossom and reveal, often directly to the audience under spotlight, their fears and desires. Willard fears he’ll never love again (he leads us to believe his wife is dead) and Flora is afraid she’ll never be loved. Well, that would be convenient for Willard if Flora didn’t have plans to shack up with her best friend Marigold in the Virgin Islands.
Tali Custer (Flora) delivers a captivating performance—she's a talented actress who makes the most of the play’s sometimes clunky and contrived dialogue. Jeffrey Coyne (Willard) aptly portrays a sordid vulnerability, a trait that transforms into a pathetic vulnerability in front of his domineering wife Petunia (Victoria Guthrie), who, sorry for his sake, is not dead as he claims early on.
Weingarten’s script is meant to be over the top and is full of unexpected revelations, however where the actors make a valiant attempt at navigating the landscape of this piece, the direction falls short. There are several rough-and-tumble moments with Willard and Flora entangled in a cat-and-mouse wrestling match that seem largely to play out directionless. Guthrie’s portrayal of a devastated Petunia, dealing with her husband’s infidelities, is caught up in hesitant and half-restrained gestures when confronting Flora. Petunia clearly wants to strangle the little “blueberry-fornication-muffin” but instead Guthrie struts about the stage uncertain of where to go, physically and metaphorically.
The production will see four more performances as part of the FRIGID New York festival and director Zach Stasz would do his cast well by upping the ante and steering A Kind Kind Man into his directorial promise (written in the program) of telling a story devoid of spectacle and cheap laughs.