Kirsten Knisely’s clever SOUL MATES or UNDER THE APPLE TREE (@ BCA through March 22nd) unfolds in a series of nine vignettes (of two characters each) which explore human relationships in various stages of connection.
Early on we meet two giddy teenage girls (Angela Keefe and Laura Menzie) who wonder if “boys will ever stop being jerks” and if the two friends will ever find their soul mates. It’s a delightful scene, made even more delicious by director Caroline L. Price’s sound design and her hilarious choreography, which includes stage manager Samantha MacArthur behind the console, grooving out in her seat to the rock ‘n roll. The smart Boston Actors Theater production enhances Knisely’s script (and ups the comic ante by having MacArthur take part in another scene as well).
As the performance moved pleasantly along through almost half the vignettes, I thought to myself what an amusing little play…and what a versatile foursome to portray all the entertaining, interlinking characters. Then Knisely got serious. One of the men (Joseph Kidawski) from a lighthearted previous scene (involving a shootout with plastic “nerf” guns) comes out to his parents and to his immense disappointment, they’re not happy about the news. Luckily, he has his brother (Brett Milanowski) in his corner. Then Kidawski breaks our hearts again in the next scene (with Menzie) as a young man headed off to Viet Nam. All of a sudden the play acquired considerable weight.
The only vignette which seemed out of place to me (in time and theme) was the last (which bookended the enigmatic first), a scene right out of HOBSON’S CHOICE where the daughter of a wealthy tycoon decides on her own to marry a man in her father’s employ. This fait accompli comes as quite a surprise to both the man and her father. Fortunately Boston Actors Theater has Keefe and Malinowski to pull it off. The BAT’s fine ensemble work is what makes SOUL MATES a cut above.