When you see an animal on the road, do you stop or go forward? Straddle the line or swerve? Kiss or always wonder, “What if…?”
Against the backdrop of a disheveled New York apartment and a fast-paced metropolis, Callie (Michelle Beyda), a traffic reporter who despises her job, and Sara (Veronika Olah) an idealistic school teacher on a fellowship in the Bronx, explore these questions when their friendship and love expresses itself in a first kiss. This kiss leads to an attack by a prejudiced observer leaving Sara in a coma.
‘Stop Kiss’ cleverly weaves together two time lines; one of when Callie and Sara first meet and the playful banter and camaraderie that is shared and the love that develops, the second of when Callie and Sara are attacked and they must deal with past boyfriends, family, media and Sara’s injured condition.
The stage set is simple, in the back, silhouettes of two female profiles in a moment just before a kiss, in the front a stripped down layout of an apartment that looks like it was taken from an episode of Seinfield or Friends without the glitz. Suggestions of a hospital or the interrogation room are supported by a simple hospital bed or a table and a couple of chairs. The silhouettes of two females may be a little too literal but overall the set works in its simplicity and enables the themes of this play to shine.
Without a doubt, ‘Stop Kiss’, is a challenging script and with the simple stage set, the production really depended on the actors and actresses to make it believable and heart-felt.
The acting was uneven at times with some areas more polished than others in pacing and conviction. Overall though, Callie and Sara are believable in both who they are as individuals and the romance that is conveyed in the glances, comments and gestures they share.
One of the highlights of the play was the monologue by Callie in an interrogation scene where Detective Cole (K. Michael Riley) asks her for the details of the evening when they were attacked on the streets of New York. Callie powerfully conveys the underlying turmoil of confronting her love for Sara, the guilt in being part of the events that lead to the violent consequences and the internal struggle of figuring out if she wants to finally take her life off of autopilot. Sara is able to convey her vibrancy and her desire to experience every adventure life has to offer prior to the attacks that, as the audience, you needed in order to feel sympathy and empathy about her condition to make the play come together.
The casting was also solid with Peter (Troy Kristoffer) as the protective husband of Sara from her roots back in the Mid West and Mrs. Winsley (Linda Piccone) as the nosy neighbor who witnesses the attack and throws flower pots at the attacker.
There were interesting choices of music sprinkled throughout the play. Familiar, catchy tunes such as “Love Shack” would not have been my initial picks for this play. However, in hindsight, these tunes helped keep the energy and momentum of the play moving.
The play, written by Diana Son, first debuted off-Broadway in 1998 during a time when incidents of gay bashing had raised the issue of homophobia and prejudice based on sexual orientation into public light. Over a decade later, these issues are still relevant. However, the themes in this play transcend and speaks to anyone who wonders whether they should stop and grab hold of life and love.
Stop Kiss at City Lights Theater convincingly explores the desires of the heart and the joys, passions and consequences when you act upon them instead of swerving.
City Lights Theater Company
529 South Second St.
San Jose, CA 95112
Box Office (408) 295-4200
General Admission Tickets $30
Student, Educator, Senior and Group Discounts Available
May 14 – June 14, 2009
Performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm
Sunday evenings at 7:00 pm (May 24 & 31),
Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm (June 7 & 14)