Considering the challenges faced by this production, it’s a miracle that Stop Kiss is opening at all, much less on time. Running at approximately 90 minutes with no intermission, Stop Kiss is the story of two women in New York who meet, fall for each other, and on the night of their first kiss are brutally attacked, leaving one of the women in a coma.
I know what you’re thinking now: I’ve given away the plot! But not so. Diana Son, the playwright, sets up the timing of the play in a unique manner – the scenes alternate in time, with the first scene before the women kiss, and the second scene after the kiss, with subsequent scenes following in a similar fashion. The joy of the play is not in the fact of the kiss, but rather the discovery of the couple’s blossoming relationship in its many facets. Although the time-jumping may initially be confusing to the unsuspecting theater audience, it is ultimately a very satisfying experience and well worth the initial “Huh?” moment.
Want to know why it’s such a miracle this show is opening tonight? Here are a just a few examples of the challenges the production has had to survive:
-More actors have either quit or been fired than there are characters in the play.
-There is no stage crew. None. Just one person, Bekki Rasmussen, running light board. To put this in perspective, be aware that in many plays, if not most, there are more people backstage than you ever see onstage. In this production of Stop Kiss, the actors have taken on the extra responsibilities.
-Critical financial concerns. Aren’t there always financial concerns in theater? Of course. This production was no exception.
The focus in this version of Diana Son’s classic is solely on the main theme of lesbian love for the previously avowed straight girl, and the complications that too-strong friendship and attraction cause in the protagonists’ personal lives. Some of the secondary thematic strains, such as the dichotomy of inner/personal life as opposed to the facade shown to the world, or the impact of subtle cultural differences on a young relationship (even a lesbian one), are essentially ignored and unexplored.
Supported by TASO (Theater Arts Student Organization), Stop Kiss is completely student-run, student-directed, student-acted, student-everything. The involvement is certainly not limited to theater arts majors, and the cast list sports several names of students from the wider student populace. The lead roles are carried off nicely by Jenny Sullivan and Angelique Powell, who play the characters of Callie and Sara, respectively. The two romantic leads are acted by Hans Eleveld and Blake Mitchell, whose characters both get dissed (obviously) by the lead female characters. Erin Woodcock and Levon Cullen’s supporting-role performances serve as excellent foils for the drama of the central relationship. All of the play’s participants, particularly student director Drew Robinson, deserve acclaim for having survived and persevered.
Stop Kissopens tonight in the Studio Theater on the first floor of Lincoln Hall at 7:30 p.m.