Here’s three to see beginning with the Lyric Stage Company’s smart and funny production of STAGE KISS by Sarah Ruhl (“The Clean House,” “In the Next Room or the vibrator play”)whose surface lightness illuminates real life in surprising and important ways. In “Stage Kiss” an actress called simply “She”(the consistently marvelous Celeste Oliva who hits the stage like a hurricane) has been away from the theater for awhile and is cast opposite “He” (the excellent Alexander Platt). Here’s the rub: she and he were once lovers who broke up badly, and now find themselves in a play that requires them to kiss repeatedly on stage, performance after performance, day after day, week after … well you get the idea. Who hasn’t wondered what actors do with their emotions–and bodies for that matter–when a play requires them to be continually smooching? Michael Hisamoto in a variety of roles is beyond hilarious in each part,  but especially when understudying the leading man; his repeated attempts to kiss the leading lady find his technique somewhere between that of a snow plow and a blowfish.

Suddenly, life onstage and off becomes hilariously intertwined as these one-time lovers/now acting partners access their past romance while “acting” within the confines of one of those terribly phony 1930’s romances where everyone’s exclaiming “dahling” and fainting. Hamlet-like, Ruhl finds the play’s the thing to reveal a load about the power and uses of acting, and the ways we walk that wobbly line between illusion and reality in all the roles we play, in relationships and work, era to era!  Director Courtney O’Connor expertly winds this uniformly fine cast up and lets them go. STAGE KISS goes until MARCH 26!

Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Edward II/actors’ Shakespeare Project

Then pop on over to Charlestown to see actors’ shakespeare project’s EDWARD II–written not by Shakespeare but by his contemporary and sometime collaborator the young mysterious genius Christopher Marlowe. Directed by David R. Gammons, this production uses every inch of the Charlestown Working Theater’s intimate space with Sara Brown’s ingeniously designed set and Jeff Adelberg’s atmospheric lighting bringing this seldom performed play to life. New co-artistic director Maurice Emmanuel Parent (with Elliot Norton Prize winner Paula Plum) has had a busy and varied season and leads an excellent cast as “Edward II” King of England whose “tragicall fall” was triggered by his passion for Piers Gaveston (a lithe Eddie Shields) and the jealousy, resentment, and anger the relationship inspired in his court.

Maurice Emmanuel Parent throws his heart and soul into the role; his love scenes with Eddie Shields as Gaveston are acrobatically choreographed for maximum sensual impact. Lancaster (Nigel Gore) and Mortimer (Alex Pollock) find themselves in cahoots though I found their acting styles at odds; Gore’s earthy naturalism and Pollock’s arch surrealism are each compelling but don’t gel in the same production. Edward’s brother Kent (Nile Hawver) finds his allegiance torn, while Jennie Israel as Edward’s spurned wife Isabella hitches her female fate to whoever can protect her and maintain the line of succession to her son Edward III. David J. Castillo as Ed III is a revelation in the climactic last scenes!

So there’s much to keep one engaged, not the least of which is the momentum of the play itself which unfolds swiftly, and is leaner and meaner than any of the Bard’s works. I found the play’s frank representation of a royal homosexual liaison most startling because of the degree to which the King’s extreme passion blinded him to his duty as a sovereign. The final tableau is masterfully staged, tragic poetry in motion. At Charlestown Working Theater through March 19!

Demetrius Fuller & Beca A. Lewis/Informed Consent

Finally head on up to Chelsea and check out Apollinaire Theatre Company’s and The Chelsea Theatre Works’ fleet 90 minute one act about genomes, memory, and identity, choice and fate, knowing and not knowing: INFORMED CONSENT by Deborah Zoe Laufer.  A scientist named Jillian seeks to unravel the genetic mysteries of the disease that took her mother, will take her, and may have been inherited by her 4 year-old daughter. Becca A.Lewis as the scientist is a very appealing and agile performer who manages to be both sympathetic and self-righteous as she explores the genetic history of an especially insular tribe whose identity hinges on a very specific creation myth, which may be challenged. Ah, scientists, and the things they know.  The cast in multiple roles fills in the gaps in a talky play, sparely staged. But what it talks about is pithy and provocative. I took issue with the play’s somewhat sentimental conclusion, but was grabbed by some of the science I learned. Did you know that we are more alike– genetically– than different? (only .1% different!) A good thing to remember now.  See INFORMED CONSENT through March 12!