Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Blank Canvas Theatre
Review by Mark Horning

Also see David's reviews of Annapurna and Sex with Strangers

Stuart Hoffman and Teresa McDonough
Photo by Andy Dudik
What's your all time favorite movie? What's your favorite movie genre? What's your favorite movie era? Do you choose your friends by what movies they like? Have you ever lost a friend over an argument about a certain film? Do movies have a strange control over your life? Questions like these are in the air in the original comedy Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang now playing at Blank Canvas.

Sean (Stuart Hoffman) hosts a call-in radio show where listeners can share their likes and dislikes about various films. The only trouble is that Sean only likes horror movies (especially slasher films from the 1980s) and is quick to hang up on anyone trying to advocate a different genre. This puts him in hot water with the station owner, David (Bobby Williams), as complaints keep coming in. Sean's friend and station manager Saul (Doug Kusak) tries to keep the peace.

Jean (Teresa McDonough) is a soon to be tenured professor at a local college teaching a film appreciation course but only focuses on films made during the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s golden era of Hollywood. She is losing students to Sophie (Faith Whitacre), the daughter of a former lover Jean broke up with over an argument over a movie. Her former lover just happens to be David (Sean's boss). In the opening scene she forces her opinion on a hapless student (DeLee Cooper) in spite of the student giving a reasonable argument.

Both Sean and Jean are given an ultimatum “Get your act together or get out!” The two meet by accident in a bar that shows obscure black and white films and it soon becomes apparent that they have a stronger than normal passion for films. As their relationship begins to gel they realize that they need to have a deeper respect for each other's views as well as the views of those who are in their charge as well as in charge of their futures.

Things go swimmingly as each shares various films with the other and common ground is found. All is swelling music and close-ups until Sean invites Jean to co-host his new and improved revamped radio show. Can Sean forgive Jean for embarrassing him on the air? Will Jean be able to redesign her syllabus in a manner that will have students sign up for her course? Can both of them change enough to fall in love in spite of their diverse views? Will Saul ever get over his fear of the microphone? Will Sean get over his irrational fear of The Wizard of Oz?

Blank Canvas uses a very plain set that does not get in the way of the acting, which is exceptional. The lighting is well augmented and due to the intimacy of the theater the sound carries quite well into the audience area. The direction by Jacqi Loewy paces the actors well as a relationship is built in front of the audience's eyes.

The play makes interesting use of a split stage as two scenes are run concurrently, with one group of actors freezing during the other's scene. The writing is sharp and witty with film references used as part of the dialog to illustrate a particular idea or trait of the character. There are lots of delightful laugh out loud moments during the 75 minute one act play (no intermission).

Even if you are not a film buff, there are plenty of familiar references that are comfortable for the audience. Get to the theater early to watch the series of movie scenes shown on the two TV screens and see how many you can guess the titles of. It is an evening of romantic escapism much like the films being represented during the show. This is a nice date night play to share with someone you love or simply wish to know better.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang by Stuart Hoffman (who also stars in the show) at Blank Canvas, at 78th Street Studios 1305 West 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland, through November 13, 2016, Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are available only online at

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