It’s been a few years since New York has seen a new work by MacArthur “genius” Sarah Ruhl (“The Vibrator Play,” “Dead Man’s Cell Phone”), whose plays are distinguished by a dreamlike theatricality and meditative lyricism.
During that time, her spot as leading female playwright has been usurped by Annie Baker (“Circle Mirror Transformation”) and Amy Herzog (“4,000 Miles”).
“Stage Kiss,” which was first done in Chicago in 2011 and now is being produced Off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons, is certainly representative of Ruhl’s uniquely contemplative and whimsical voice. However, it is a slight and far-fetched piece that quickly turns tedious.
Inspired by the idea that actors’ real-life emotions can be affected by their characters’ onstage behavior, “Stage Kiss” revolves around the generically named She and He (Jessica Hecht and Dominic Fumusa), out-of-work actors who were once a couple.
They are cast in a revival of a comedy reminiscent of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” as former lovers who rekindle their romance. This leads to She and He rekindling their own romance despite her husband (Daniel Jenkins) and daughter (Emma Galvin) and his girlfriend (Clea Alsip).
Always in the background are the director of their play (Patrick Kerr), his assistant (Michael Cyril Creighton) and a pianist (Todd Almond).
Although Ruhl’s setup is intriguing, there is not enough plot or character development in “Stage Kiss” to sustain an entire evening. Instead, Ruhl spends too much time trying to parody English comedy and kitchen sink realism during the play-within-a-play sections.
Rebecca Taichman’s polished production, which effectively contrasts the onstage and offstage settings, is distinguished mainly by Hecht’s alluring performance as a spacey actress.