BWW Review: STOP KISS, Above The Stag
Diana Son's play Stop Kiss debuted Off-Broadway in 1998. The jarring tale of a horrific homophobic crime feels as relevant as ever, as it was only this past July that a lesbian couple was violently attacked on a night bus in London. Callie and Sarah meet and unexpectedly fall in love. Instead of being as cute and fumbling as it should always be, their first kiss triggered an assault that will change their lives forever.
Raffaella Marcus directs the poignant and deeply touching piece of theatre, creating a show that is as dramatic as it is adorable. She weaves the two timelines together, making them a smooth stream of time, andƒ introduces characters who aren't quite equipped to navigate their own sexuality and find solace in their friendship before carefully diving into love.
Suzanne Boreel is a complicated Callie as she holds the reins of the plot, seamlessly jumping back and forth in the chronology. She is flanked by Kara Taylor Alberts as Sara and her variety of cosy jumpers, a young woman who's just moved to New York after winning a fellowship to teach in a school in the Bronx. The friendship that develops between them has an awkward aura from the very start; their chemistry builds up and the (metaphorical) way they run around each other in circles is enough to establish the endgame.
Designer Anna Reid sets the scene between a messy flat and the cold ambience of a hospital. The 90s vibe is vivid and places the action in a time where openness and trust were hard to achieve in a confident and fearless manner. Stop Kiss makes it clear that not enough popular plays tackle the issue of homophobic violence from a lesbian perspective. Marcus' direction is sharp and decisive, alternating the lovely and exciting feeling of a budding relationship to the harrowing outcome of its displays of affection.
The production isn't, unfortunately, technically flawless with its faltering accents and occasional unaddressed ambiguity, but it holds its own in the genre. Ultimately, the play is a disheartening reminder that not much has changed in the 21 years since that passed from when it first premiered, and women still fall in love only to be casually "gay-bashed" when they dare to be themselves in public.