For a city where the stars above are hidden each night by all the light of the streets below, “Touch,” written by Toni Press-Coffman and directed by James Masciovecchio, brought a sky’s worth of stars and their pensive wonder to the stage.
The cozy black box at Under St. Mark’s was appropriately fitted with three simple chairs wrapped in white fairy lights, a window frame suspended and similarly wrapped, and a few rocks, scattered around the edges of the stage. With a soft lighting scheme, the audience was led enraptured through the story of Kyle, an introverted astronomer who just experienced the violent and devastating of his first and only love.
While the few characters – Kyle (Josh Triplett), his best friend Bennie (Alex Etling), Kyle’s sister-in-law Serena (Cassie Wood), and a Kathleen (Kiley Caughey) – were creatively conceived, the actual details were disappointingly stereotyped. Kyle, as a man of the stars, was quiet and withdrawn throughout high school. He had no friends, by his own admission, but for Bennie (who went to a different school) and Zoe, his now-passed wife. The audience learns that Zoe, who was vibrant and quirky and vivacious in her time, brought out the vivacity in Kyle. Their love was immediate and unquestionable and they married the Christmas after high school graduation. Bennie was a doctor who couldn’t stop himself from helping “fix” Kyle, even if he did not quite know how, and Serena, Zoe’s sister, was a fourth-grade teacher who had an overflowing passion for words and a belief that she knew best.
Though the characters were lacking in any impressive amount of depth, the climax of the plot was riveting. The leading lad, depressed and nearly catatonic Kyle, takes the audience through the story: the first time he saw her all the way until the moment he finally was able to let her go. It is evident from the beginning that Zoe will expire, but the foreshadowing does nothing to prepare for the heartbreak so well acted by Triplett. Etling expertly lends aid to his friend, and the transition between and introduction of each other character is cleverly and carefully executed.
The play ends like a Disney love story – wrapped up neatly in both a routinely predictable and slightly roundabout way. The vast unknown of space is brought back from its nihilistic tendencies, and love lives again. The Big Bang may not have been totally reconciled with the Spirit believed in by so many, but audience members may leave satisfied that big bad things work themselves out into simple stories with swallow-able happy-ever-afters (for everyone but Kathleen, apparently). “Touch” puts the stars back in the sky and the monsters back in the closet, locked where they belong.