By Edward Kliszus
Kissing the Floor at Theater Row began by enveloping the arriving audience with big-band jazz and the tender sounds of Ella Fitzgerald singing Duke Ellington’s Caravan. Portentous musical references mirrored the hardships and uncertainty of the Great Depression while at times expressing optimism and welcome solace. The conflict between these inscrutable forces is palpable as we contemplate the heartbreak of Antigone.
What dangers emerge from hubris and the consequences of moral choices? What tensions predominate in reconciling the trappings of divine and human realms? Do the laws of the gods take precedence over the laws of the state? Can hope blossom, or are we doomed to a nihilistic existence? Beyond Antigone, does the Book of Exodus indeed iterate an inescapable curse that the “Lord visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” We’re about to find out.
The lights and sounds unveiled a macabre, decrepit chamber of past grandeur. Annie (Christina Bennett Lind) knelt as she mysteriously tapped on the wooden floor posed under a chandelier suspended from a ceiling of broken plaster and exposed crooked lath. Izzy (Akyiaa Wilson) observed her sister Annie from a few feet away. We were about to travel back in time to witness the events leading to this peculiar setting.
Four siblings, twin brothers Paul and Eddie (Leon Ingulsrud) and two sisters Annie and Izzy, told their stories of devastating personal heartbreak and familial horror that confronted ethical dilemmas of family loyalty and civic responsibility. The family’s curse was revealed through dramatic performance and skilled storytelling. Their vivid utterances revealed the characters’ thinking and coming-of-age revelations. Eddie’s chilling, condemnatory, self-reflective monologue explained how the failed decisions of his parents and the doom of his grandparents led to his acceptance that he and his siblings were monsters. “We’re all monsters, see? Not just him [Paul], not just me. Every single one of us.”
Annie regularly visited her brother Paul in prison and, while there, conversed with Brennan (Rinde Eckert), the warden. From his unique perspective, Brennan delivered a sardonic commentary while standing on the anonymous denizens heaped in the jail’s polyangium. He opined about one’s loss of identity, stating, “It’s where the city’s unclaimed dead go, stacked like tins of mackerel, hundred fifty to a grave. The prisoners bury them.” A waste of humanity.
Just as Antigone believed she was duty-bound to bury her brother, Christina Bennett Lind, Annie maintained a convincing, potent presence to protect Paul. Annie accomplished this before the play’s denouement whilst plagued by continual convulsive tremors leading to her humanely and lovingly cajoling her brother Paul to take his own life. Leon Ingulsrud, as Eddie and Paul revealed family secrets, fate, and inexorably doomed souls. Akyiaa Wilson, as Izzy, grasped the curse but strived to overwhelm it as she guided us through times and places.
Kissing the Floor was a well-conceived, powerful dramatization akin to the legendary “sins of the father,” ably expressing the overpowering tragedies of Antigone brought to life in the demise of a family during the Great Depression. It is a profound exploration of human nature, grief, and the destructive consequences of–so many things.
Kissing the Floor runs through March 12. Runtime is 100 minutes without intermission.
Kissing the Floor at Theater Row
Written by Ellen McLaughlin
Christina Bennett Lind (Annie)
Rinde Eckert (Brennan)
Leon Ingulsrud (Paul, Eddie)
Akyiaa Wilson (Izzy)
Directed by Ianthe Demos
Assistant Director: Nadja Leonhard-Hooper
Movement Director: Natalie Lomonte
Set Design: James Hunting
Lighting Design: Driscoll Otto
Sound Design: Brendan Aanes
Costume Design: Kenisha Kelly
Production Stage Manager: Vanessa Rebeil
Assistant Stage Manager – Melissa Sparks
Production Manager: Omri Bareket
Assistant Costume Design: Max Kelly & Madison Powell
Assistant Lighting Design/M.E.: Christopher Gilmore
Press Rep – David Gibbs/DARR Publicity
Additional Press – Lisa Goldberg
Photography – Russ Rowland
House management – Madison Doyle & Wendy MacIver
Kissing the Floor at Theater Row
Theater Row (Theater Four)
410 West 42 Street
New York, NY 10036
For tickets and information, go to https://bfany.org/theatre-row/
Call the box office at (212) 714-2442 ext. 45 (12-5 pm daily).