nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
September 26, 2011
Scottish-American couple Addie and William Turner are getting divorced after 60 years of marriage. This protracted legal and emotional adventure, based on a true story and developed over a long period by author Brandon Walker and the ensemble of The Seeing Place Theater, has become the play Scotch Kiss.
The divorce is not easy for Addie and William’s grown children, either. Cora—single-mom, postal worker and heavy drinker—is angry at her brother Dan—a rarely employed, former drug dealer—who is angry at Addie’s nice-guy but high-priced lawyer, Robert. But why not be angry? In a particularly tender moment, the play points out that young children get angry when their parents divorce, so grown children should expect to feel the same way.
Addie (Mary Anisi) starts the play by staying in a separate room from her taunting husband, then packing a suitcase and sneaking away with the help of her son Dan (Ned Baker Lynch) and his new girlfriend, Nancy (Amanda Baker). Addie almost immediately expresses the desire to start living her life, which was always full of compromises and never got better. In contrast, William (Michael Stephen Clay) just wants to talk some sense into Addie and makes every effort to sabotage the divorce proceedings. At one point, he fires his attorney the day of a pre-trial hearing, and comes to represent himself dressed in a kilt. The judge warns him of being found in contempt, to which he replies, “If this was good enough to get married in, it’s good enough to get divorced in.” While Addie runs up legal bills by treating Robert (David Sedgwick) as her confidant (she has, after all, had no one to talk to for 60 years), William, full of grief and stress, has a heart attack. Cora (Debbie Friedlander) has had Addie sleeping on her couch for three months and is losing control of her own children. A well-meaning nurse (Kathleen Brower) brings the family together to talk one last time.
There is a lot of truth in this play. At the very least, we see how an unhealthy marriage leads to similar problems in the children and grandchildren, and may even scare away a fiancée. We see what it means to be an American: that even after coming over from Europe and spending 60 years with someone, you get a chance to question the way you’ve always been living your life. I found myself making comparisons with the play The Retreat From Moscow, which tackles a similar story with none of the comedy. Scotch Kiss has a lot of humor in the decidedly Brooklyn speech patterns and aggression of Dan and Cora.
Co-directors Reesa Graham and Brandon Walker have brought out the best and the worst of characters who, like many New Yorkers, know each other too well yet don’t know each other at all. Plus, William is so aggravating that at the end most of the hospital staff won’t deal with him. These portrayals bring a danger, however, of slowing down the action with Scottish accents and the normal lag time of senior citizens arguing. The play feels long, contrasted by unbelievably rapid reversals at the very end. Still, one can’t argue with a true story. It may even help you stop arguing with your spouse.