Review: ‘Stop Kiss’ transcends gay issues

Sep. 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

Karissa J. Murrell Adams, left, and Brook Costello star in the 2011 UH-Manoa Late Night Theatre season opener. (Photo courtesy Donald Quilinquin)

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com
  
It is a fact of life that things that are accepted in one part of the world are illegal or dangerous to do in others.

‘Stop Kiss’

Presented by the UH-Manoa Dept. of Theatre and Dance

» Where: Earle Ernst Lab Theatre
» When: 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 1
» Cost: $10 general admission; $8 for UH faculty/staff, seniors, military and students; $5 for UH-Manoa students w/validated Fall 2011 UMH photo ID
» Info: 956-7655 or www.hawaii.edu/kennedy

In some countries, women and men alike are allowed to decide if they want to go bare-chested at the beach, in others only men are allowed to make that personal decision. There are areas in the Middle East where men can hold hands in public without anyone raising an eye brow but where a physical display of affection between a man and a woman is a criminal offense. And there are places in this country where same sex couples may put themselves in danger if they hold hands or kiss romantically in public.

Playwright Diana Son explores the aftermath of one such public display of affection with “Stop Kiss,” but her story of two women, and the men who love them, embraces broader themes — love, willingness to make a commitment, and personal identity.

Sara meets Callie shortly after she moves to New York. Sara can’t keep her cat in the apartment she’s sharing; Callie has a much larger place and takes the cat in. Callie, a long-time New Yorker, is an airborne traffic reporter. She got the job with the assistance of her ex-boyfriend’s uncle. The main man in her life is George; they have an active but open sexual relationship that may or may not be headed for something permanent.

Sara has come to New York from St. Louis on a fellowship to teach at an elementary school in the Bronx; she broke up with Peter, her boyfriend of seven years, to come to New York.

Callie and Sara become friends. They gradually move towards what is apparently the first same sex relationship for both of them. One night Sara suggests that they go to a lesbian bar. After that they go for a walk in a park at 4 a.m. They kiss for the first time. A man attacks them. Sara is beaten unconscious and remains in a coma.

As presented by UH student director Amanda Stone as the season’s first Late Night Lab Theatre offering, “Stop Kiss” is a marvelous showcase for the talents of Brook A. Costello (Callie), Karissa J. Murrell Adams (Sara) and Michael Hardy (George). Costello, an important secondary player in the 2009 Lab Theatre production of “Etta Jenks,” steps forward here as an endearing and versatile star. She meshes beautifully with Adams in the scenes that show the friends tentatively moving towards a physical relationship, and is equally in synch with Hardy in the scenes that gradually reveal the deep emotional ties between Callie and George. Hardy shines simultaneously as a comic actor and an off-beat but believable leading man.

Costello also does convincing true-to-life work in the darker scenes where Callie reluctantly reveals the circumstances of the attack to a no-nonsense detective (Murray Husted), attempts to find common ground with Peter (Tyler Nichols) after the attack, and has a very odd conversation with the woman who saved Sara’s life by calling 911 (Sharon Doyle).

Playwright Son does not tell the story chronologically. This causes things stand out as red flags that would otherwise seem insignificant. For instance, if someone on the street says something nasty do you stop and confront them, or do you keep on walking?

And, are there places sensible people don’t go at 4 a.m. even though in theory we all should be able to go anywhere we want any time of the day or night?

The story ends abruptly and with several important questions left unanswered. The abrupt ending doesn’t reduce the strength of Costello’s multi-faceted performance, or the added entertainment value Adams and Hardy give this late-night production.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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