When Diana Son’s Stop Kiss premiered at New York City’s Public Theatre in November of 1998, the questions caused by the tragic death of Matthew Shepard still hung in the air. Words like “hate crime” and “homophobia,” though much a part of the American experience, had only begun to fall on to the ears of the wider American public.
I distinctly remember hearing Matthew’s story on the news, just an 11-year-old kid in rural Maine, playing Legos on a hardwood floor and wondering how anyone could be so mean. “Mean:” a soft word for cruel. And though my vocabulary was as lacking as the American public’s, inside I was aware of a very simple truth that has since been the battle cry for the LGBT civil rights movement of the 21st century: love is love.
Stop Kiss, directed by Aly B. Ettman, wades through the politics and prejudice to make that simple but elegant statement.
Stop Kiss starts in an interrogation room. Detective Cole (Dexter Hamlett) is questioning Callie (Rebecca Ellis) over the attack of a woman who has been beaten unconscious in New York City’s West Village. Callie, claiming to know nothing of the motive behind the attack, flashes back to the true start of the story.
Stop Kiss begins in a picturesque late-90’s apartment, with late 20-something Callie running hopelessly late for an engagement. St. Louis transplant Sara (Alyssa Sanders), a “friend of a friend,” stops by to drop off her cat. The two, from infinitely opposite ends of the spectrum, connect. Equally perplexed by and interested in each other, the women form a strong friendship which begins to quietly push the bounds past what either of them expected.
Closes September 29, 2013
Peter’s Alley Productions
at Theater On The Run
3700 South Four Mile Run Drive
2 hours with 1 intermission
Fridays thru Sundays
Details and tickets
Though dealing with complicated themes, Stop Kiss is a deceptively simple show. The first act requires a careful balance of darkness (the crime) and light (the friendship) to keep it lively. As the pressure points responsible for propelling the story of Callie and Sara are subtle, and when hit too hard, as occasionally happens, the rhythm stumbles. The cast, however, meets the challenge of the rapid-fire second act, with Sander’s mid-western charm, resolve, and moving vulnerability leading the pack. Each scene hits harder than the last, leaving the audience with a gripping conclusion.
Stop Kiss does not strive to be a piece about a hate crime, about coming out, about uncertain safety in the big city. In fact, it strives to be the opposite. At its heart, Stop Kiss is a show about life, and how it moves clumsily but steadily forward, forcing us to make choices, and challenging us to be brave.
Stop Kiss by Diana Son . Directed by Aly B. Ettman . Featuring Rebecca Ellis, Alyssa Sanders, Dan Guy, Dexter Hamlett, Robert Kittler, Rebekah Mason and Isabel Mahoney . Produced by Peter’s Alley Theatre Productions . Reviewed by Sarah Ameigh.