Kiss Me Like You Mean It

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What makes a great love affair? Chris Chibnall’s 2001 romantic comedy Kiss Me Like You Mean It, presented by Melbourne theatre collective MARC Up, offers an answer by contrasting two couples—one young and tentative, the other aging and familiar—caught in the throes of love.

Somewhere in the suburbs of Manchester, England, it’s 3am and a house party rages on. Party guests Tony (Rob Gaetano) and Ruth (Chloe Reid) strike up a conversation: Ruth is avoiding her adoring but boring boyfriend and Tony, offering a sympathetic ear, can hardly believe his luck.

Across the yard, Don (a boisterous Kirk Alexander) and his wife Edie (Carrie Moczynski) are celebrating fifty years of love. They slyly dispense romantic advice to Tony and Ruth but before sunrise, each of the four individuals will confront what the terms of such love truly are.

Playwright Chibnall has a number of television writing credits (Torchwood, Dr Who, Life on Mars) and his dialogue shows the hesitant, flirty patter between the young couple, Tony and Ruth. There’s also a bit of lopsidedness to the casting of Gaetano’s puppyish Tony against Reid’s stunning Ruth that feels unbelievable and yet completely genuine.

In contrast to these early scenes, the second act takes us inside Don and Edie’s marital home which does seem to rush through its paces to a predetermined ending, rather than springing from the motivations of the characters themselves. The contrivances to bring the two couples together seem a little too neat; the finale, a little too fatalistic.

It may well be Chibnall’s view that love is a form of destiny, in the way that it strikes resolutely on a hot summer’s night in the suburbs. Whether or not you too subscribe to that view will sway your opinion on this play: what some will find sweet, others may find sentimental.

Kiss Me Like You Mean It is playing at The Owl and the Pussycat until Feb 23.
For more info and tickets visit owlandcat.com.au.

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