We saw Kithless in Paradise at The Lion Theatre last Saturday and found it to be a sometimes amusing but not very deep play about how much more important loving and honest relationships can be than are material goods.
“What shall it profit
a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” That’s the biblical injunction but a similar secular
version of that idea appears in Greek mythology as well, in the story of King
Midas, whose ability to turn everything he touched into gold proved to be a
curse rather than a blessing. Or in
everyday terms: “Money can’t buy happiness.”
And it is a similar message that animates Kithless in Paradise by Molly Moroney, now enjoying its world
premiere: to wit, there are more important things
in life than material goods.
Kithless in Paradise
is set in San Francisco in 2009 at the home of Tim and Janice McCall (David
Wirth and Liz Forst), who are hosting a dinner party for their house guests,
Phil and Polly Barrett (Brit Herring and Tracy Newirth) who are visiting from
New York. Tim, a successful money
manager, and Phil, who is now very comfortably retired, are in their fifties and
have been best friends since their high school days, even before they were
college classmate at Notre Dame. After
graduating from college, Phil became Tim’s first client, engaging him to manage
his $20 million portfolio – an act which launched Tim on his successful career.
Also in attendance at the dinner party are Ken Loring (Bob
Manus), who Tim and Phil have also known since their high school days, and his
wife Sandy (Jill Melanie Wirth). If
anything, Ken appears to be even wealthier than Tim and Phil, residing in a $25
million mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
But Tim and Phil are certainly well enough off themselves, drinking $3,000
bottles of Bordeaux, driving Mercedes Benz cars, and belonging to all the right
Not that everything is perfect – not by a long shot. Both Tim and Phil went through a difficult
stretch during the early stages of the financial crisis over the prior two
years and that did put something of a strain on their relationship, although
they and their friendship managed to survive it. But a much more serious problem, it would
seem, is the fact that Sandy is suffering from leukemia and may not have much
longer to live.
One might imagine that Sandy’s leukemia would be the
equivalent of an 800 pound gorilla in the room but, oddly enough, that doesn’t
turn out to be the case at all. Not only
Janice and Polly, but even Sandy, herself, remain more concerned with talk of
shopping for expensive shoes and handbags and imbibing outrageously expensive
wine than with the state of Sandy’s health.
As for Phil, Tim and Ken, their focus remains firmly on such macho
matters as cars, sports, bodybuilding and money. In sum, the shallowness of the entire group
knows no bounds.
Of course, as the dinner party wears on, secrets are
disclosed and revelations made, which is just what we’ve come to expect from
plays of this sort. Spousal infidelities
and the betrayals of friends come to light but it all develops in a most
predictable manner. Yes, there are
revelations and secrets disclosed but there are no real surprises and nothing
The play is written, directed and acted well enough and it
does have its entertaining moments. But
while it succeeds in displaying the shallowness and one-dimensionality of all
six characters portrayed and telegraphing its platitudinous message that love, marital
fidelity, friendship, health and life itself are more important than material
goods, this is not a deep play and it achieves its goals only by lapsing into the very shallowness
and one-dimensionality of the characters in the play itself.