When Callie (Emma Jacobcon-Sive) agrees to give a home to Caesar, the cat of a friend of a friend, she’s pretty sure she’s not gonna like The St. Louis transplant. As a New Yorker of eleven years, the traffic reporter is pretty confident that most some things will pretty much turn out the way she thinks, not great. But once Callie meets Sara, she turns out to be wrong.
Unassuming and easy, Sara (Kelly Hill) has won a fellowship to teach public school deep on the Bronx. Knowing accepting a fellowship, which was named for the teacher killed by one of his own students there, Sara leaves behind teaching privilege students in a private school, a relationship that has just petered out and looks bravely toward to her new life in New York.
The cynic and the newbie hit it off and a friendship emerges from their differences. They challenge and push each other in good ways. Without really meaning to, their friendship intensifies and slowly begins to grow into something more. And the moment they consummate this budding relationship is the same moment it is violently torn down.
“Why should you be obligated to stay with someone once you’ve outgrown them?”
That is the question posed early by Sara in Diana Son’s Stop Kiss. But the question that the story itself asks is: Why should you stay if it has only just begun, but gone disastrously awry? Is staying a question of love or character? Does law enforcement ever make more than a half-hearted effort to get justice for victims of gay-bashing, or do they tend to blame the victims? Son’s script poses these questions without truly addressing them. Wisely, Son’s touches on these larger issues but always bring the story back to focus intimately on two women gradually falling in love.
The cast as a whole is very strong. Emma Jacobson-Sive and Kelly Hill portrait a likable and believable opposites-attract couple. Their union goes not come too fast or too easy and it feels very organic. Keith Ewell plays the affable George, Callie’s friend with benefits, who is actually a good friend and not just a lay when the inch arises – a pleasing turn for a character with his dramatic function, performed with fun and buoyancy. Cliff Weissman, Lisa Goodman and Connor Barrett complete the show’s ensemble of players with honest, credible performances. Jacobson-Sive’s work conveying character Callie’s growing pains is quite lovely.
From a technical standpoint, this production was particularly impressive. There was notable precision in the execution of the shows army of sound and light cues. The lighting and sound elements, designed by Bosco Flanagan & Emma Rose Lipsitt respectively, were incisive, colorful yet refreshingly restraint. The show employs a reckless amount of costume changes and practical props. And yet, every sweater, every wine glass is exactly where the characters reach for them. Moreover, there is virtually no effort made to strike the sea of objects, they simply become artifacts of the relationship developing between Callie and Sara, folded neatly into Frederica Nascimento’s smart and highly functional set. Directors Ken Barnett and Larry Biederman use every inch of playable space in this quaint theater with imaginative thrift. Well Done.
Presented to you by A Four Letter Four Production and Frantic Redhead Productions, this incarnation of Stop Kiss sidesteps all the usual pitfalls of flashback plays. Jumps back and forth through time are balanced and measured so no scene is too long, nor truncated. The transitions were tight and seamless. Momentum. This production never loses momentum. In late, out early and overlapping elements between scenes with grace. Again, Well Done.
There are plenty of great things about this production. At 90 minutes, the story unfolds in one act, at just the right pace, and takes just enough time to tell. In fact, all elements of this show were skillfully modulated; I can’t think of one thing to knit-pick about. There is an inclination to want to feel more, to be a bit more outraged given the subject matter. But I didn’t walk away from this production feeling angry. What happens to Callie and Sara is tragic, however, their story is by no means a tragedy. It’s a love story.
Stop Kiss is a solidly enjoyable night of very good theatre. I strongly suggest you find your way to the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood to check out this gem.