Brava and Bravo To Michele Anne De Mey and Jaco van Dormael, for “Kiss and Cry,” A Tour de Force That Blends Film, Dance, Text, and Theatre.
By Hank Walshak
“Kiss and Cry,” played at the New Hazlett Theater, talked to my heart as only a work of theatrical genius could. The story is about an aging woman at the end of her life travelling back into her memory, sometimes dim, as she remembers the men she’s loved and who have gone from her life. The question that burns for her is: Where are they now?
As the piece opens, we see two hands, the fingers of which move the way we move our fingers in walking movements when we play with babies and toddlers. “Where is this going?” I whispered to my wife, Jeannette, seated beside me. Shortly after, I realized that “Kiss and Cry” defies categorization.
My surprise at seeing fingers acting the story soon changed into light-hearted acceptance as the story gained momentum. Through scene after scene, I found myself drawn ever more deeply into this world of fingers as actors.
The entire play is acted out by the moving hands and fingers of the crew on miniature sets with video cameras filming and projecting the action onto a giant screen. The precise movements of the fingers acting hypnotized me to see them not as fingers, but as personalities creating drama with the finesse of a ballet troupe.
The fingers achieve dance movements we see in real-life ballet, from plies to pirouettes, as they depict emotions of intense love, sensuality, and kindness.
The members of the crew work their hands in movements depicting changing scenes in almost darkness that never detract one’s attention from the giant screen. Their movements take place in silence as they move about ending one scene and seamlessly starting another. As they do, the narrator expresses the action that moves sometimes briskly, sometimes at a slow pace as the music builds a visceral tie to the unfolding story.
The choreography has them do their nanodances with the grace and poise you’d expect to see as professional dancers express stories through dance. The overall effect gives one a sense of the surreal as they move about on tiny sets.
The play has an existential, French taste, reminiscent of the black-and-white movies Francois Truffaut directed years ago, like “Les Quatre Cents Coups,” (The 400 Blows) that grabbed your heart and arteries and made you a part of the story. Kudos to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for bringing this tour de force to Pittsburgh as part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts 2013.
A blend of film, dance, text, and theatre, “Kiss and Cry” is the brain child and heart child of Michele Anne De Mey and Jaco van Dormael. Both are well recognized in Europe for their artistic and theater talents. Michele holds the position of associate at Charleroi Danses, the Choreographic Centre of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. In his theatrical productions, Jaco has developed a poetic and ambitious world of his own with non-linear, narrative forms. Both are natives of Belgium.
What a tour de force, this “Kiss and Cry.” It’s safe to say that you’ve never before witnessed theater like this. The script and acting over turn the traditional way things are done. In this case, “Kiss and Cry” turns upside down and sideways the traditional way plays are conceived, produced, and appreciated.
Hank Walshak, Founder and President of Walshak Communications, Inc., helps experts to be read, be heard, be seen, and be known. He assists experts in creating and delivering expertise-related content to differentiate themselves as experts.