Kiss It All Goodbye 

Red Kite Theatre, at Cafe Voltaire.

Atlanta playwright Rob Nixon clearly cherishes all those galumphing tinsel town cliches. Though his play, set between 1931 and 1934, contains several glaring anachronisms--the film noir title, songs that were written later, slang like "egghead," and wigs from the 1940s--Kiss It All Goodbye pays left-handed homage to the early talkies and to assorted La-La Land stereotypes, from A Star Is Born to Sunset Boulevard. The travesty-laden plot reveals how Esther and Lester Novicki, lesbian and gay female and male twins, become a movie queen and an indispensable director. But despite fame, glamour, and studio clout, they can't escape the predations of Cardinal O'Hara, a hypocritical, blackmailing censor who wants to cram virtue onto the silver screen (no matter what he does with the altar boys in his own productions). Nixon throws in various clumsy complications and a bloody climax but spares Esther and her maid Louise, who find happiness on a Wisconsin farm. (I loved Esther's line, delivered with her patented throaty intensity, "Will there be goats?")

Directed by Robert Hatch and Culley Orion Johnson, the play serves best as a vehicle for them: Hatch plays both of the ever-emoting Novicki twins, and Johnson the washed-up heartthrob Norman Mason. Hatch is so accurately histrionic I hate to contemplate how much time he's spent watching B-movie tearjerkers. Johnson has perfected that vacuous matinee-idol diction, and Kara Young does a fine Roz Russell takeoff. But despite the sporadic satire, which stops just short of contempt, most of Kiss It is a mild old time.

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