Growing up is one of the hardest things to do. Beating an addiction is even harder. Combine the two, and not many make out alive. In the play “Kyle,” by stand-up comedian and children’s book writer Hollis James, the connection between growing up and addiction is explored, as well as it is the collateral damage that failing at both creates. And what works best, is the intimate feeling the whole play has, making it both an uncomfortable, yet enlightening experience.
Directed by Emily Owens, the play starts with the main character meeting the titular character in an effective introduction scene that lays the groundwork for what’s to come and establishes the relationships perfectly. From this first scene we know Jack (Nat Cassidy) has never done cocaine in his life, and he is being introduced to it by his girlfriend Crystal (Tricia Alexandro). We know from the dialogue that Crystal is a casual user who hasn’t done it in awhile. We know from this same scene that Jack might have an addictive personality and this might not be his best idea. Enter Kyle, played by Hollis himself, as the embodiment of bad habits and decisions. From this introductory scene we know where each one of them belongs in the play, and we know the individual journey they are each about to take. This is what this sort of scene is supposed to do, and this one does it in style.
The show progresses as we see Jack’s downward spiral unfold. Losing everything, even the will to do what he loves, we are looking at a personal story being shared with us. One that requires you to sit down and have an open mind to understand how easy it is to fall into these tragic scenarios we put ourselves into. It is easy to judge somebody else, but it’s not easy to be judged when you are in their shoes. “Kyle” does a great job of illustrating that to its audience, and engages them as they are made to watch a man’s demise and resurrection. While it takes some time for the audience to warm up to Jack, as he is sort of cluelessly digging himself in a deeper hole, by the middle you are wholeheartedly invested in his well being. Maybe not because of him, but because you can relate to the people around him. If you have been an addict or deal with people with addictions in your life, this play will hit you right in the gut and I say that as a good thing.
“Kyle” will be on stage at Under St. Marks until Saturday March 25. I would recommend you don’t miss it.
Out of 4 stars:
*All images via Jody Christopherson
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