Written by Diana Son
Directed by Kaylee Johnson
This is a play about falling in love…and becoming the person you have always been, even though it might be very, very hard.
"Stop Kiss" follows two characters, Callie and Sara, who live in New York. Callie works for the local news station as a traffic reporter, and Sara, fresh from St Louis, is an elementary teacher on a special placement in The Bronx.
The two are thrown together when Callie, a friend of a friend, agrees to watch Sara’s cat while she finds a place to live that will accommodate him.
But it’s clear from the outset that there is something powerful going on between them. Both are in ‘kind of’ relationships with men, Sara left her long-term boyfriend, Peter, when she moved to New York and Callie has George, a friend with benefits, who she thinks she will eventually end up with.
So neither of them are expecting to fall in love, with anyone, let alone with another woman. There is such a sweetness and an innocence to this story. While what has probably prevented both of them from pursuing gay relationships in the past has been the stigma, or the concern about what people might think, ultimately it is their love that is beyond reproach and their almost comical avoidance of the obvious keeps us in suspense until that fateful first kiss.
However, this play is not as simple as that. It weaves in and out of two timelines, taking us back and forth between what begins with love and ends with disaster. The play opens simply enough, at Callie's apartment where Sara brings her cat, but then we are quickly brought forward in time to a hospital and aftermath of a terrible attack in a park at 4 am, the night of Sara and Callie’s first kiss.
I won't go into any more detail, it’s an important part of the play that you do not know what’s to come. But I highly recommend that you find out!
Both the leads are exceptional. Callie is played with wry humor and self-deprecating glamour by the brilliant Clare Liz Phillips. Sara is played by Brooke Culbertson whose sweet endearing nature is so perfectly wrought and balanced with her tomboyish and earnest desire to help the kids in her school. Ms Culberton is truly fantastic.
The supporting roles are also excellent and this cast is really beyond reproach, all deftly handling this brilliantly written play. I thought the director Kaylee Johnson does a particularly wonderful job of bringing all these quite complicated timelines together, transitioning the story flawlessly and without compromise to the authenticity of the characters.
This is quite a long play and has no intermission, so be prepared, but honestly, I totally understand why they chose this arrangement. The story and these wonderful actors are so compelling I can't imagine where or how they could suddenly take us out of this place and into the brash house lights of trips to the bathroom or 10 minutes of Facebook. So I was happy to stay in the world of “Stop Kiss” for as long as it took…I’m sure you will be too.
This play is only on the Theatre Unlimited stage for a few weeks, so don’t dawdle. This is such an excellent production, I absolutely LOVED it! The play is set in the 90s, which is not that long ago, so we might consider ourselves to be “enlightened” but we need to remind ourselves that there are many people even now who aren’t and they are closer than we might like to think.
And on that note, on opening night, The Nasty Theatre Company donated half of their ticket sales to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, an organization dedicated to LGBT rights and protection through litigation, legislation, policy and public education.
Callie - Claire Phillips
Sara - Brooke Culbertson
George - Evan Holtzman
Peter - Anthony Marquez
Detective Cole - Garland Scott
Mrs. Winsley/Nurse - Debba Rofheart
George (understudy) - Colin Conrad
Director - Kaylee Johnson
Lighting Design - Liz Nordenholt
Light Board Op - Amanda Wright
Dressers - Nicole Burton, Augusta Abene & Lauren Dewey