Review by Willard Manus

KISS, by Guillermo Calderon, begins as a parody of a telenova, with two young couples dealing with their complicated love lives in an intense but clueless way. The play, which is set in 2014 Damascus, is intermittently funny, silly, impassioned and melodramatic. But just as its banality begins to get on your
nerves, the way most soap operas do, Calderon executes a sleight of hand and turns KISS into something unexpected: a mordant and ironical political fable.

Thanks to the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, local theatregoers have now been introduced to the work of Calderon, whose plays and movie scripts (“Neruda”) have made him something of an international star. The Chilean-born writer, who now splits his time between Santiago, New York and Hollywood, has written KISS in English, but it’s an English that is slightly odd and anachronistic (“I want to see you eat, I want to lick your plate until its completely clean!” is how one of the youngsters in the play declares her undying love.)

Kristin Couture, Kevin Matthew Reyes, Natali Anna, Photo by Enci Box
The youngsters, we learn in Calderon’s sudden switch from farce to reality, are actors rehearsing a play they have found on the internet, “Boosa,” Arabic for kiss. The play, they learn in a Skype call to the mysterious playwright, was written in 2013 when Syria’s past and present was being destroyed by war.
The death of its culture included the death of the Syrian theatre-world; “Boosa” could only be performed in living-rooms and bombed-out apartments as a “fantasy,” “a space for nostalgia” in whichthe audience could feel something besides war.

Calderon doesn’t stop there; he keeps going deeper and deeper into the world of the play, revealing the horror that lies at its heart, the cruelty and monstrousness of the Assad regime. In fact, the last line of KISS, as spoken by an actress named Laura, is, “I would rather be stabbed than live under the rule of
this bastard.”

The offbeat and complex KISS is not an easy play to mount, but thanks to the expert and inventive direction of Bart DeLorenzo and to the superb work of its young actors, many of whom are sure to go on to stardom, KISS comes off as one of the most compelling and provocative plays Los Angeles has seen in recent years.

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Call 310-477-2055 ext2 or visit