September 5, 2016
Written by Toni Press-Coffman and directed by Nathaniel Shaw, Libra Theater Company’s
“TOUCH” is a deeply personal show. It’s impossible not to be emotionally moved by the story
itself, delivered with strong acting by the four-member cast, all within the very intimate theater
setting of 59E59 Theaters.
In this play, a high school physics class begins a life-long romance, cut short by an unthinkable
tragedy. We join the story amidst the aftermath and grieving process. As Kyle Kalke packs up
boxes of his late wife’s things, he shares, through tears, laughs, and excerpts of John Keat’s
poetry, the story of him and Zoe.
The work continues to seamlessly transition from past to present, grounded in the human
experience of love and loss. Pete McElligott is powerful in the lead role of Kyle, delivering the
raw emotions that Press-Coffman’s story demands.
But “TOUCH” is not solely a love story; through Kyle’s character, we witness his individual
resilience and see both his strengths and weaknesses. This is most poignantly captured in the
present-day scenes in which Kyle evolves into “John Sky,” the increasingly vulnerable client of a
prostitute, Kathleen. During one of their nights together, Kathleen says, “I’m just filling in until
you can tolerate real people.” He wrestles with this reality and begins to let her in, one step in his
journey to move on.
Throughout, there is an ongoing theme of that which is bigger than ourselves—namely the
universe, the stars. Kyle’s lifelong appreciation for science and astronomy feed into how he
connects, and sometimes struggles to connect, with those around him. We see it with his
relationship with Kathleen, but also hear it in the memories he shares about Zoe, and the way he
interacts with his best friend, Bennie, and Zoe’s sister, Serena.
Meanwhile, a strong juxtaposition between the personal and universal emerges. Though this
could run the risk of feeling forced, Press-Coffman’s play, guided by Shaw’s keen direction,
succeeds in highlighting it a meaningful and organic way.
Kyle discovers, or perhaps has no choice but to discover, that perspective is key. There’s an
honesty in the development of his character, and the others introduced, making this “worst
nightmare” type of storyline feel surprisingly relatable.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson