Directed by senior Rory Cushman and written by American playwright Diana Son, "Stop Kiss" is a sweet and enduring story about overcoming obstacles and finding love where you least expect it.
"Stop Kiss" centers on two women trying to navigate the murky waters of life, love and prejudice in New York City. Sara is a St. Louis, Mo. native who transfers to a school in The Bronx to teach children who need assistance. Callie is a traffic reporter who's willing to settle for her mundane life until Sara comes along.
As Callie helps Sara learn her way around New York and Sara coaxes Callie out of her routine, their relationship blossoms until both of them are unsure of its nature. The pair draws closer together until their first kiss prompts a brutal homophobic attack that lands Sara in the hospital.
Sophomore Gabby Formica shines in the role of Callie, hiding her fear and resistance to change under a flighty, scatterbrained shell – which Sara, played by junior Emily Cirincione, can see right through.
Cirincione is a perfect foil to Formica's Callie, providing a more relaxed and composed presence even as she encourages Callie to go after what she wants and step outside her comfort zone.
Both actors are greatly aided by the set, which is filled with props and furniture for them to interact with. As Callie and Sara eat, clean and cook in the apartment, there's a real sense that the play is a window into actual lives.
The play alternates between two timelines: Callie and Sara inching toward love and the aftermath of the attack on Sara. One corner of the black box is taken up by Callie's warm, cheerful living room and the opposite corner is Sara's blue-toned hospital room. The separation allows viewers to keep track of the alternating chronologies and sets very distinct moods.
The cost of this, however, is that actors who needed to appear on the opposite side had to run backstage and often change costumes, bogging down scene transitions. This is due largely to the script, which calls for more scene changes than seem strictly necessary.
Most of the script's dialogue is pleasantly naturalistic, but sometimes it seems a little too determined to plod through every little moment, while at other times the conversations border on unbelievable. The detective trying to unravel what happened to Sara asks several blatantly irrelevant questions, and no one calls him out on it. Then, in the latter half of the play, he vanishes, implying that he was nothing more than a plot device to tell the audience retrospectively what happened.
Because of the emphasis on naturalism, the action of the play plateaus for a while. There isn't always a sense that something's at stake in many of the smaller scenes. This, combined with the lengthy scene transitions, makes it hard to stay invested throughout the whole play.
"Stop Kiss" is, however, incredibly successful at portraying a fledgling lesbian relationship with immense sensitivity and originality. The characters never stray into clichés. In fact, there's something so beautifully complex about them that the heavy subject matter isn't heavy-handed.
"Stop Kiss" is running Feb. 9 - 10 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 11 at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $6 and are available in the Brodie Box Office.