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"Kithless in Paradise" Debuts at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row
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"Kithless in Paradise" Debuts at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row

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Kithless in Paradise
(Lion Theatre Website)

By Molly Moroney

Directed by Niki Flacks

Lion Theatre
Theatre Row
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street
Liz Forst, Tracy Newirth, Brit Herring
David Wirth, Bob Manus, Jill Melanie Wirth

Set Designer: Raul Abrego
Lighting Designer: Joshua Scherr
Costume Designer: Rebecca Lustig
Sound Designer: Kimberly Carbone
Production Supervisor: Production Core
Production Stage Manager: Kristine Ayers
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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 20, 2011

Molly Moroney’s Kithless in Paradise plays like a television sitcom, without the laugh track. The social skits are often cringe-worthy, as six married millionaires and multi’s try ever so hard to find self-esteem, then vent, insult, implode, and attack each other, as wine flows from an endless bottle supply, beneath built-in furniture. The setting is the 2009 San Francisco home of Tim and Janice McCall (David Wirth and Liz Forst), who are hosting Tim’s high school friends, Phil Barrett (Brit Herring) and Ken Loring (Bob Manus) and their wives, Polly Barrett (Tracy Newirth) and Sandy Loring (Jill Melanie Wirth). Tim retired early on his family’s fortune, while Janice travels extensively. They banter in mild marital discord, until Phil and Polly arrive. Phil is a hedge fund guy, and there’s a sub-plot about Tim’s removing his money from Phil’s fund, during the financial meltdown, causing an underlying rift. In fact, Ms. Moroney’s play presents numerous rifts, some more underlying than others, like known and unknown infidelities, and workout secrets that expand the cringing.

When the Lorings arrive, Sandy is dying of leukemia, but there’s not a missed sip of wine or chatter about restaurants, designer handbags, or an array of status driven topics that keep the ping-pong repartee boring and contrived, until Sandy gets sick. Ken Loring has a vulgar personality, so no surprise that Sandy tells him a painful secret. But, even here, Ms. Moroney could have created depth, with dialogue of Sandy’s years of angst and neediness. Instead, Ken instigates episodes of sexual attack, verbal attack, drunkenness, and manipulation of all those within reach. Suddenly we’re hearing about his Merit Scholarship from decades earlier, as he exacts revenge on old money, which he never had. Really? In this economy, does Ms. Moroney think audiences care about old money vs. new? And Polly’s $30,000 handbag talk? Really?

To make matters worse, the theatre program lists September 2009 as the “time”, but the two acts are a year apart. At first this was confusing, as it seemed the McCalls were hosting back-to-back reunions. Raul Abrego’s contemporary set was just as shallow as the play, with one valuable painting hanging over the hearth that drew the eye. It was just that painting (obviously a prop) that was said to be Tim's alternate shelter to his wealth. The broken end table, a byproduct of Ken’s drunken tantrums, seemed far from the antique that Tim pegged it. In fact, those “pegs” were actually an issue in the fight. Here again, a dialogue on pegs? To be fair, all six actors were splendidly in their roles, and they charged through two acts with exuberance and energy. It seemed too coincidental that Mr. Wirth is actually a body-builder, as was his character, but each actor drew my attention to the extent I’d look forward to seeing them in future productions. Niki Flacks directed for minimal audience involvement. With some outsized likeable energy, aka warmth, the characters may have penetrated the psyche. Of the six, I found Tracy Newirth the most engaging, and the least grandstanding. She was a natural.

Bob Manus, David Wirth,
Brit Herring in
"Kithless in Paradise"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

David Wirth and
Brit Herring in
"Kithless in Paradise"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Tracy Newirth,
Jill Melanie Wirth,
Liz Forst in
"Kithless in Paradise"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

The Cast of "Kithless in Paradise"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at