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The Huntington and Front Porch Arts debut ‘K-I-S-S-I-N-G’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
The Huntington and Front Porch Arts debut ‘K-I-S-S-I-N-G’
(from left) Ivan Cecil Walks, Regan Sims and Sharmarke Yusuf. PHOTO: NILE HAWVER

It’s the season of love, and joyful, giddy, hilarious love is the central emotion of “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” by local playwright and Huntington Playwriting Fellow Lenelle Moïse. Co-produced by Front Porch Arts Collective and The Huntington, this world-premiere production celebrates Black love in all its teenage awkwardness and bliss.

High school student Lala is an artist using pizza boxes as canvases for her works. As the summer heat thickens, Lala develops a romance with young feminist Dani and his charming twin brother Albert, and she weighs the benefits of love and lust in a relationship.

Playwright Lenelle Moïse (left) and director Dawn M. Simmons. PHOTO: NILE HAWVER

“I wanted to write a romantic comedy where Black teenagers were the central characters,” says Moïse, a lifelong fan of the rom-com genre. “The play is an ode to the creativity, style and brilliance of Black teenagers. Love is a verb. It’s action. I love the process of watching Black teenagers take that action.”

Moïse grew up in Cambridge and spent most weekends visiting her grandparents in Boston near Blue Hill Avenue. Those early experiences of both cities influenced the fictional settings of this play. Lala lives in Height Bridge, a working-class environment, while Dani lives in Covington, a more affluent town nearby. Many of the logistics in their relationship are centered on finding a space outside their parents’ homes where they can be together.

“We see these kids carving out spaces of intimacy in public, and that was very Cambridge upbringing for me. I was out of the home a lot looking for myself and for my friends,” says Moïse. “Those private spaces for them end up being public sites like museums and forests and a lookout.” The blend of urban and natural spaces that can be found in Cambridge and in parts of Boston plays into the setting of “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

The playwright was inspired by the ease of summer break for teenagers. For the lucky ones with fewer responsibilities, perhaps just a summer job, there’s a lightness that comes only in the summer, when school is out. Without the weighty responsibilities of adulthood on them yet, these teenagers can focus all their attention on each other and their love. That emotional abandon is beautiful, and often difficult or impossible for adults to recover.

“Because the central characters are youthful, I think this play has a kind of giddiness, a levity, a joy at its core,” says Moïse. “I think we need more stories of Black aliveness — and love makes me feel alive.”

“K-I-S-S-I-N-G” is on stage at The Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion March 3-April 2.