nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
July 24, 2008
Love crosses any boundary it encounters like wind blowing through a border fence. Sapphire's Kiss is a charming, poetical look at boundless love and the way it blows.
Sapphire's Kiss tells the story of Diana, a dancer turned social worker who falls in love with Cypris, one of her more colorful clients. Cypris suffers from paranoid delusions such as believing that people are spying on her or that laser lobotomies can occur at moment. Diana is her new case worker and is immediately fascinated by Cypris's eccentricities. Cypris, for her part, is immediately attracted to Diana and makes no attempt to hide her attraction. Diana is divorced and has a teenaged daughter from that marriage. She seems unhappy with her life and has her own mental issues to deal with. She claims to find her job "rewarding" but at home she tells her daughter "what's to like, I work with crazy people." She is engaged to a man but they plan to have an open marriage. Her relationship with Cypris is very unstable but in the end love and friendship conquers all.
Playwright Maggie Zarillo-Gouldin pens an intermittently poetic script. Cypris often speaks in verse and she uses slightly elevated language. Zarillo-Gouldin often references the ancient Greek poet Sappho who wrote many love poems to the women in her life. Zarillo-Gouldin's characters are very interesting and seemingly real people. They are smart, funny, and easy to connect to. However, I found the growth of the relationship between these two women to be unnaturally fast. There is very little that is organic about their affair. Diana never really tries to deter Cypris's advances and never establishes the professional boundary that their love will eventually cross. Also, I found it difficult to understand what Diana finds attractive about Cypris. They are from very different worlds and she is crazy and difficult to even talk to. In the end, I had the feeling that Zarillo-Gouldin maybe intended to show that Diana feels compelled to help Cypris because by doing so she is helping herself.
Director Ronnie Prism stages a very lovely production. Prism brings some of the action downstage in warm pools of light. The pacing of the show is fairly steady and, with the minimal set of just two chairs and a table, the scene changes happen quickly. However, the pace does tend to lag at times. This is in part due to a few scenes that Zarillo-Gouldin includes that do not drive the plot forward, such as a scene between Diana and her boss. This is time that could be better spent developing the relationship between Diana and Cypris.
The cast is good. It took me a little time to get what Cathy Diane Tomlin was going for as Cypris but she grew on me eventually. Tomlin is not the strongest actor but the skills she does have work for this character. Valentine Aprile plays Diana with a mix of anguish and dispassion. When she smiles it is so contrary to her normal state that it really lights up the stage. Allyson Morgan is rock solid and very natural as Diana's daughter and Suellen Rubin holds up her end playing all of the supporting roles.
Sapphire's Kiss is really quite a charming play and if a little more time were spent on making their love more organic it could potentially be quite compelling.