Two weeks before the premiere of “Stop Kiss,” the Performance Network received a letter from three subscribers stating that they found the topic of the play which involves a lesbian couple to be offensive. The play attempts to address the danger of these exact stereotypes and thus, everyone involved with the production was concerned for its future. The sort of reaction it elicited would lead one to believe that this piece is either incredibly shocking or involves some something pornographic but it is hardly that. It is, quite simply, a love story. It is a tender and humorous and beautiful story of a love which could hardly be called offensive. At the time, David Wolber, the marketing director of Performance Network, said, “I”d love to have this play be a grand success instead of a play that drew a few offended remarks and didn”t get seen by many people.” His wish has come true.
Three weeks into its run, “Stop Kiss” has been received warmly by the entire community (minus three). Performance Network even chose to add additional performances due to its incredible popularity and rapid sellout. It is a timely work that deserves every accolade it receives.
“Stop Kiss” is the story of Callie (Carla Milarch), an anxious and energetic New Yorker. She is a radio traffic reporter who still hangs out with her NYU friends and is involved in an on-again off-again romance with her college buddy, George (Travis Reiff). Sara (Michelle Murphy) is a new friend of hers, a St. Louis girl living in New York to teach third-graders in the Bronx.
The play alternates between two equally engaging narratives. One is the evolution of Sara and Callie”s relationship, beginning with their first meeting. The other is various scenes which relate to a crime which, chronologically, takes place exactly when the major narrative ends. While sitting on a West Village park bench, Callie and Sara are assaulted by a man who initiated their interactions with homophobic slurs. Sara is in the hospital, while Callie tries to piece together both the details of the crime and her relationships with Sarah and her family.
Together, these narratives come together to explore the difference between the pure and uplifting nature of their love for one another and the traumatic event which results from their assaulters” ignorance.
It is a story of courage and the steps we take to make change comfortable in all aspects of our lives. This pieced-together narrative style keeps the play at a tight and engaging pace.
The play is beautifully acted and carefully directed. These are genuine characters and Milarch and Murphy both radiate a certain intimacy that brings the audience closer to the emotional core of the piece.
Diana Son, the author of “Stop Kiss,” is a recent recipient of Berilla Kay Playwriting Award. The play premiered at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theater two seasons ago and has been produced at over 25 theaters in the United States.