Now playing at the New Ohio Theatre, Kiss it, Make it Better, presented by Theatre 4the People and directed by Isaac Byrne, is a delightful and authentic coming-of-age story about two young children who grow up together in Coney Island and spend their childhood playing make-believe games underneath The Cyclone.
The two main characters, Nadia (Erika Phoebus) and Ty (Brian Miskell), bound onto the stage in the first act as the younger versions of their characters, playing the pair of seven year olds with honesty, openness, and the absolute fearless abandon of children. Their convincing portrayal of childhood innocence had the audience giggling along with them in all the right places. Nadia and Ty are inseparable playmates until, reaching the ripe old age of 16, they begin to experience their own individual misadventures. Miskell was positively splendid as the ADHD suffering Ty whose risky choices place him in dangerous company; meanwhile, the attention-hungry Nadia uses her newfound sexuality to conquer her long-time crush, Bradley (Chris Cornwell), their childhood babysitter, resulting in damaging perceptions of what relationships should look like. The play progresses to explore this theme in great depth with mostly entertaining results.
Phoebus is also the author of this touching story. Although much of the language is natural, it is at times overly wordy. While this is perhaps intentional -- showing teenagers' struggles to express themselves clearly -- the story does feel too repetitive and could probably be edited down. Still, Phoebus’ hard work and thoughtfulness is evident, impressive for someone her age.
The set, too, is impressive. Initially appearing as a one-piece centered structure, it can be pulled apart to create as many as three separate sections; this was done with precision and easy elegance.
Kiss it, Make it Better will certainly be a hit with teenage audiences who will undoubtedly relate to the two main characters’ angst and attitudes; the young talent that filled this production is certainly worth supporting.