note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark
Composer Brian Cimmet
Assistant Director Zoe Stark
Costume Design by Sarah Bartlett
Scenic Design by Kristin Burgess
Props Design by Millie Anne Cavenaugh & Stacey Cohen
Lighting Design by Sacha Shapiro
Mrs. Winsley/Nurse.........Jonica Patella
Detective Cole.............Craig A. Brown
"Stop Kiss" by Diana Son is a play that stylistically wrestles with the story-telling potentials of the stage versus film. The scenes, taken out of sequence, swirl around that one supreme moment when two people surprisingly find themselves united in that first passionate kiss that declares and cements their love of one another. This ritual symbol has signalled union in countless thousands of movies, but here the pair surprised by joy are two very different women trying to make lives for themselves in contemporary New York who, but for that moment, that particular partner, would never think of the word "lesbian" at all.
Rather than trying to out-real movies, the Erinys Productions crew (working in a shoestring in the cramped Leland Center space at the BCA) opted to make the play into a fantasy, with two police investigators (Craig A. Brown & Jamey Roberts) in black hats and trenchcoats searching the dark audience-space with flashlights for ... well, for truth. In truth that first kiss triggers a perverted male's vicious attack that leaves one of the women in a coma and the other unwilling to say why the foul-mouthed attacker got so upset. Actually, both women here spend the play denying and refusing their obvious attraction toward one another, so this search for truth is as much internal as external.
Arwen Anderson plays the point-of-view character here --- a self-deprecating television traffic-reporter whose fiancÚ actually married her sister and whose best friend is a guy (Roberts) who sleeps with her when between affairs with other women. Her denial of attraction is so tense she tends to act, literally, with her neck muscles for much of the play.
She actually envies the dedication and commitment of a third-grade teacher (Lin-Ann Ching) working in the Bronx, for whom a triumph is having a pupil write her own name, without mistakes or outside help, for the first time. The teacher constantly demands "What do you Really want!" --- which is the central question of the whole play. The tragedy here is that the final answer to that question for the two of them --- that kiss --- means that their life together will be rehabilitation rather than normal life, though their commitment to one another suggests an even happier ending for this play than any of those countless thousands of movies for which a mere kiss became a metaphor.
The Nora Theatre Company's production about a year ago opted for realism, and thus suggested an almost glacial movement toward one another for the two main characters. Obviously, both approaches are valid. Since I saw the previous production, I am no .longer an honest mirror for this production. I must report that both productions moved me to tears, but in slightly different places. And I think anyone who has seen either one will be impressed by the power of Diana Anderson's play.