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On Stage Kiss Helmer Rebecca Taichman

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Through the years, I have had many discussions with people about directors. A director's work is often tricky to review on the basis of one production -- in the case of a first work, it is often unclear what is a director's idea versus what is a stage direction in the script itself. It is also hard for people to separate actors' choices from a director's touch. But after a period of watching a director's work, you get it. You know how good that director is. And I think Rebecca Taichman is very good.

The first production of hers I saw was Theresa Rebeck's The Scene at Second Stage Theatre. While the play may have fallen apart a little, the production featured great performances (particularly by a then virtually unknown Anna Camp) and perfect staging. I have since seen many productions she has helmed, including Kirsten Greenidge's Milk Like Sugar (Playwrights Horizons), Greenidge's Luck of the Irish (LCT3), Sarah Ruhl's Orlando (Classic Stage Company), Dark Sisters with music by Nico Muhly and libretto by Stephen Karam (MTG/Gotham Chamber Opera at John Jay College), David Adjmi's Marie Antoinette (Soho Rep.) and, most recently, Ruhl's Stage Kiss (Playwrights again). Out of all of these titles, I only didn't like her work on Marie Antionette. But, then, I don't know why anyone thought staging a scaled down Marie Antionette was a good idea. I do not blame Taichman; I didn't get any of it, from the script on.

Generally Taichman's work is characterized by a unique understanding of the proper tone for a given piece. She doesn't make her productions overly glib or cynical; she tailors her work to the material, as a director should. If you are in New York, this is the last week to catch Taichman's impeccably breezy work on Stage Kiss. If you are in San Diego, you can see her production of J.B. Priestley's drama Time and the Conways at the Old Globe. (The play, which Taichman described as "extraordinary," is a staple in the UK, but is rarely done in the US.)

In a recent conversation with me, Taichman stated she enjoys directing comedy and drama equally. "One of the gifts I've been given, is that my work can span genres and across different tones and styles," Taichman said. "I can do new plays, opera and Shakespeare. I find they all feed each other. I love doing a lot of different kinds of work."

Stage Kiss, which received mostly positive reviews, marks Taichman's fourth time staging a work by Ruhl. "I love working with Sarah," explained Taichman. "I feel we sort of share a dream space somehow. The type of epic, surreal questions she is asking are the questions that dog me. I love her sense of theatricality. I love how she mashes up the everyday and infuses it with a mystique."

Taichman will reunite with Ruhl this fall for the world premiere of The Oldest Boy at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Taichman said the play is about Buddhism and is more similar to the world Ruhl presented in Eurydice than it is to Stage Kiss.

Taichman is also gearing up to direct Familiar by Danai Gurira (who co-wrote and starred in In the Continuum off-Broadway and is well-known for playing Michonne on the AMC drama series The Walking Dead), scheduled to run at Yale Repertory Theatre from January 30 through February 21, 2015. From that it is onto Rehearsing Vengeance, a play she has been developing with Paula Vogel for years. Rehearsing Vengeance, based on the life of the play God of Vengeance, will premiere at La Jolla Playhouse summer 2015. I also hope one day to see GrooveLily's Sleeping Beauty Wakes, which Taichman is working on with the band. I missed my opportunity before, but am holding out hope.

For now though, Taichman is all about seeing Time and the Conways through previews and bidding adieu to Stage Kiss. There are only eight performances left for you to go laugh at Stage Kiss.

"There is a particular delight in hearing audience laughter," she said. "There is a particular joy in bringing laughter into people's lives."