Romania. Kiss Me! offers a fascinating glimpse into the hardships of life in Romania in the post-Ceausescu era by a quintet of diverse contemporary Romanian playwrights.
From Nicoleta Esinencu comes "Fuck You, Eu.ro.Pa!," a sort of poetry-slam monologue, performed with electrifying intensity by Nadia Bowers, in which a young woman bitterly and angrily describes how betrayed she feels by both her homeland and the West, with its promises of wealth and freedom. While not all of it may resonate for Americans, the emotion of the piece and Bowers' performance, under Jackson Gay's direction, grip.
More lighthearted is "Bus," in which four strangers attempt to figure out who will smuggle what past a border patrol. Even as Cristian Panaite's script amuses, it comments grandly on the confusion about identity in a newly free society. Panaite's "Our Children" closes the evening. As in "Bus," Panaite weds light comedy with pointed satire in this play about three generations of men attempting to secure American visas.
In Vera Ion's "Red Bull," John Boyd and Julie Jesneck play two young people trying to make ends meet by holding down multiple jobs, requiring them to consume masses of caffeine. The actors not only narrate the play in the third person, but also perform simultaneously what they describe, a duality that Boyd and Jesneck handle with graceful ease.
Another two-hander, "Diagnosis" by Ioana Moldovan, brings a level of Beckettian opacity to the evening. Here a man and a woman (exquisitely played by Rosemary Prinz and Robert Hogan) navigate an almost wordless existence at the End of the World Motel. Interestingly, although its meaning remains elusive, the play, under Thomas Caruso's direction, exerts a strong emotional pull.
Throughout, Clint Ramos' set design -- plywood crates that transform into any number of furniture pieces -- amazes. In the evening's titular play, by Bogdan Georgescu, three crates open up to create a cramped, curtained train compartment. Led by a commanding Chris De Oni, the play looks with poignancy at how Romanians of different ages and backgrounds are forced to forge a new existence together.
Presented by the Play Company
at 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., NYC.
Nov. 19-Dec. 3. Tue.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 2:30 p.m. (No performance Thu., Nov. 23.)
(212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com.