By Erik Luna
Being kindred spirits is more than being best friends. It’s about sharing a bond that goes beyond anything else – even death.
Daniel Keleher’s play “Kindred” illustrates the complexity of this theme with wit and emotion through the eyes of two kindred spirits who just happen to be prison inmates.
The play, which opened last Friday at East Los Angeles College’s Proscenium Theatre, starts as soon as the doors open with one of the inmates pacing in his cell as the audience finds their seats.
After the lights dim down, four singers come out one-by-one and sing a song regarding to the play’s central theme of being imprisoned.
As the music and singing comes to a halt, Joey (Clifton Smith), the inmate in the cell, gets a visitor from his good friend Alan (Christopher Solis). They speak about life and the hardships they have endured, as well as the troubles they have seen in the past.
Joey reflects on his childhood and his confrontation with the neighborhood bully and Alan reads him provocative letters he received from two women on the outside.
It’s through their conversation, and with the help of some herbal smoke, that this simple dialogue between friends turns into an intense struggle for life in the midst of death.
It can be hard at times to portray a deep and meaningful friendship on stage.
Smith and Solis each achieve this with great depth throughout the play. Their back-and-forth dialogue, along with witty quips, gives an immediate vigor to the friendship between these two men.
The play has an overly serious theme. Keleher’s writing gives it heart and comedy. The direction of Rodney Lloyd Scott provided the play with a good flow.
The singers at the beginning, as good as they were, didn’t add anything to the play as a whole.
When it comes to comedy, it’s all about the timing and delivery and Smith delivers wholeheartedly. His character’s recollection of facing the neighborhood bully proves to be the funniest of the show and Smith’s delivery is the driving force behind it. With a simple pause in his dialogue, Smith sets up his next line with an almost anxious feeling.
On the other hand, Solis adds most of the intense and dramatic scenes of the play, creating an unusual mix of resentment and sympathy for his character, which is most apparent during the scene his character reveals what he did to get locked up in prison.
Solis, who works almost exclusively behind the stage rather than in front, did come off a bit stiff at the beginning, but as soon as he started reciting the rather pornographic letter from a woman named Roxy, his demeanor completely changed for the night.
The play’s set, which is a prison cell with one bed, a toilet, a desk and a sink, is great. Its simplicity shifts all the attention to the dialogue and the interaction with the two friends.
Although, the set leaves a big gap on stage, which brings the audience farther away from the set and makes it difficult to hear the more soft spoken lines of the play.
The dynamic writing from Keleher and the relationship that the characters have with one another gives “Kindred” depth, as it plays with a wide range of emotions as one of the central characters has to come to terms with his oncoming demise and his lack of faith.
Mario Soto, who plays a security guard at the prison, will switch with Solis throughout the shows runtime.
“Kindred” runs for 90 minutes and will close this Sunday. Foul language is used in abundance during the show, so plan accordingly. Tickets are $7 for Associated Student Union members and $15 at the door.