Norm Foster has been among the most successful playwrights in Canada over the past 20 years, and watching his Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun, currently closing out the Banyan Theater Company’s summer season, it’s easy to see why.
Judging from this particular play, Foster’s enduring popularity might be due to the accessibility of his characters and situations, the gift for writing some sneaky laugh lines, and the ability to make an effective switch from those laughs to tears when the story calls for it.
In the case of Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun, that story revolves around Robert (Robert David May), a man in his mid-30s with the mental capability of a seven or eight-year-old, due to an accident in his childhood. Despite (or perhaps even because of) his disability, which keeps him permanently childlike, Robert is happy enough, living with his mother, Claire (Karel K. Wright), employed by a copy store and proudly riding the bus to work each morning.
Katherine Michelle Tanner and Robert David May in Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun.
It’s at the bus stop that he meets Holly (Katherine Michelle Tanner), a younger would-be teacher who’s just discovered that she’s pregnant with a child by her married (but separated) lover, Simon (Wayne LeGette). Simon’s not thrilled by the idea of impending parenthood, and Holly’s short on money. So, as Robert’s mother (who herself has a life-threatening condition) soon realizes, it might benefit everyone involved if Holly just moved in with her and Robert.
That’s not revealing too much of the plot, which is pretty clear to figure out from the get-go, anyway. It’s that believable life mix of happiness and sorrow that makes Kiss the Moon appealing—that and, especially, the budding relationship between Robert and Holly.
May and Tanner are natural together from the outset and engaging in their separate characterizations as well. He’s convincing as a curious, kind young boy (inside) with lots of pent-up energy, who’s capable of the occasional surprise with just how much he may remember or understand. She strikes the right notes as a somewhat flighty young woman trying to face up to new responsibilities. We’re rooting for these two to find some stability in their lives.
Wright, as Robert’s very attentive mother, is a strong presence and delivers her lines with punch. But she (and director Carole Kleinberg) could afford to slow down the pace a little bit on certain, more revealing moments of dialogue, to let us fully take in her story and her determination to have Robert taken care of once she’s gone. Overall, the show could use more nuance.
LeGette is properly smug and self-centered as the unsympathetic Simon, who nevertheless tries to improve himself in Act II, and Dan Higgs lends his character of Claire’s doctor a mix of professional distance and genuine concern. But the heart of this production lies with Robert and Holly; ask yourself what you would do if faced with the decision Holly must make.
Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun continues through Aug. 28 at the Cook Theatre; for tickets call 351-2808 or go to banyantheatercompany.com.