Charlotte Parry and Peter Scanavino
in Rainbow Kiss  
(© Carol Rosegg)
Charlotte Parry and Peter Scanavino
in Rainbow Kiss
(© Carol Rosegg)
When it comes to studies in romantic obsession, Simon Farquhar's Rainbow Kiss, now at 59E59, is right up there with Fatal Attraction and Passion. When it comes to studies in severe despair, however, there may be nothing comparable since Roman Polanski's 1965 thriller Repulsion.

As Rainbow Kiss unfolds on Thomas Lynch's gloom-ridden set with its prominent Double Indemnity poster -- a visual clue to Farquhar's disillusioning purpose -- it piles on the psychic pain until the audience is ready to cry 'Uncle!". Eventually, some of the play feels superfluous in the way of a dramatist making sure his point comes across to a possibly slow-witted audience. Yet, by the final fade-out, no audience member will exit denying that something exerting a disturbed but empathetic pull has occurred.

It all begins benignly -- if titillatingly -- enough when Keith (Peter Scanavino) and Shazza (Charlotte Parry) hurtle through his Aberdeen council-flat door in a libidinous embrace that speedily leads to some raucous fornicating under a handy dirty-orange blanket. Shortly, however, the fevered encounter also leads to Keith's declaring his need for Shazza to brighten his empty life and her ruling out a continuing relationship since she's with another chap whom she expects to marry.

Doggedly pursuing Shazza nonetheless, Keith -- who finds himself neglecting his now motherless eight-month-old son Simon -- grows increasingly desperate at the object of his affection's refusal to quit the boyfriend. His desperation and confusion increase when she continues to pay the occasional let's-have-a-quickie visit. When she's not around, Keith is glad to host depressed friend Murdo (Robert Hogan) but is less ready to put out the welcome mat for menacing loan shark Scobie (Michael Cates).

Were Rainbow Kiss less well directed, it could be considered a promising piece but too one-note to be completely successful. But Will Frears, ably assisted by fight director Rick Sordelet, keeps the tension taut throughout. (There are some particularly scary confrontations between Keith and Scobie.) Frears also keeps the actors pumping on all pistons from that first explosive entrance to the concluding flourish. Make that the penultimate flourish, since Farquhar tops what seems to be an ultra-dramatic finale with one last unexpected and devilishly deflating twist.

Moreover, were anyone to fall shorter of the role of Keith's relentless demands, Farquhar would be in additional big trouble; but a better performance than Scanavino's is unimaginable. Although Farquhar has written Keith as someone caught in an inexorable downward spiral, there's plenty in the character's helpless, hopeless plight for an actor to explore and enhance. Keith is introduced as so sexually hungry he's all but monomaniacal, but he's also a loving father, a concerned friend, a frightened debtor. He's unhappy with his job as a BT telephone operator and uneasy in surroundings that are deteriorating almost as fast as he is. Scanavino gets every bit of Keith's plight in, including loneliness so concentrated that its only outlet is compulsive sobbing.

The other actors carry their weight admirably. Parry -- shucking the white boots and shorter articles of clothing costumer Sarah Beers has handed her -- is as tough as a street-gang's moll but also as sympathetic to Keith as his inflexible demands allow. Hogan, scrawny as something put in a field to scare the crows, lends the alcoholic and suicidal Murdo proper pathos. Cates has the kind of lean and hungry look that men such as Scobie have to jolt characters and audience alike. In fact, his is one of those portrayals that make an audience relax when he actually smiles during the curtain call.