Actor-playwright Michael Kearns is the kind to kiss and tell, but his confessions involve no betrayals in "Tell-Tale Kisses" at Highways now and later at Glaxa Studios.
Quite the contrary. The unmistakable authenticity in this trio of monologues dealing with romanticism, denial and mortality is an affecting testimonial to the gay lifestyles he chronicles.
Kearns' fictional personas convincingly represent three generations of gay men. The first is a naive young street hustler who was cruelly exploited after moving to L.A., recounting a harrowing tale about trying to suppress one's inherent sexual orientation. Next, a blind, middle-aged man with AIDS, clinging to the fading memories that define him, wonders how much he can lose before he simply won't exist any longer. Finally, a 67-year-old looks back on the ironies of a life that afforded him the respective joys of fatherhood and companionship, but never at the same time.
Kearns' assured delivery invigorates each of these characters with distinctive style. Similar sentence structure, however, calls attention to the single authorship of the piece--more rhythm and cadence variation in the writing would further differentiate the roles. Use of an onstage chorus is a change from incidental music, but not necessarily for the better--at times it effectively punctuates an emotional beat, but at others it's simply a distraction. In any case, these poignant stories need little embellishment.
* "Tell-Tale Kisses," Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. Tonight-Saturday, 8:30 p.m. $15. (213) 660-8587. May 29-June 21 at Glaxa Studios, 3707 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. (213) 856-8915. Running time: 50 minutes.