Silver Spring Stage Stop KissBy Bob Ashby • Jul 9th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Silver Spring Stage
Woodmoor Shopping Center, Silver Spring, MD
Through July 21st
2:15 without intermission
$20/$18 Seniors and Juniors
Reviewed July 6th, 2012
Director Chris Curtis protests, a bit too emphatically, that Diana Son’s Stop Kiss is not about homophobia, gay bashing, or the civil rights of gays and lesbians. Talk all you want about marriage equality, nondiscrimination in employment, or ending bigotry in the military and churches, or the individuality of people in love, any society in which you cannot walk down a public street holding the hand of someone you love, or even kiss him or her, without fear of harassment or being beaten within an inch of your life, is a society that needs reminding of just those things that the director (and perhaps the playwright as well) insist the play is not about.
The script is well enough written so that it is not simply an editorial about this issue. Yet absent its central violent event (as in Greek tragedy, all the more powerful and frightening for being described rather than shown), Stop Kiss would be little more than a skillfully executed, rather sweet, romantic comedy.
The two protagonists, Callie (Cara Duckworth) and Sara (Caity Brown), are 30ish New Yorkers who meet, become friends, then very tentatively and almost unawares evolve into lovers. With her flighty, nervous manner and high-pitched voice, Brown’s Sara is nevertheless the braver of the two, willing to take stands, constantly pushing Callie to move off her ambivalence and declare herself with respect to all aspects of her life. Callie chronically “swerves,” far more likely to seek a safe, if unrewarding, course and to avoid issues than confronting them. In addition to shining in several monologues, such as her description of the attack that injures Sara, Duckworth does a fine job of portraying Callie’s development, under Sara’s influence, into a more definite person who is able to answer the question of who she is.
Brown and Duckworth very believably trace their characters’ growing involvement, particularly in scenes where, rather to their surprise, they begin to be aware of one another’s bodies. Their gradually falling in love is all the more credible for their not realizing for some time that anything of the sort is happening. Their kiss at the end of the show is the best stage kiss I have seen in some time, proceeding naturally, as it does, from the deepening of their characters’ feelings for each other.
Among the supporting cast, Shelley Rochester does two nice character bits as a kindly nurse and the woman who calls the police when she sees Sara and Callie being beaten. The men in the cast are less fortunate. As George, Callie’s shallow long-term friend with benefits, and Peter, Sara’s possessive former live-in boyfriend from St. Louis, David Dieudonne and Adam Adkins are not convincing as the sort of men that either woman would have put up with for several years (though Adkins did have a strong moment when he asked Callie why Sara had been protecting her). Stephen Doughtery rounds out the cast as a detective who rather intrusively probes the facts behind the assault (I admit to wishing that Benson and Stabler had been on the case).
The play is structured in 20+ non-chronological scenes, with no intermission. The set is pretty bare bones, consisting mostly of a sofa bed, a few chairs, and a table. A better arrangement of the set pieces might have made smoother some of the fairly laborious and time-consuming scene changes performed by the actors, mostly out of costume (Adkins and Dieudonne, in particular, do yeoman service in their stagehand capacities), which interrupted the pace and flow of the action at times.
Eric Scerbo’s costumes are highly varied and do a fine job of complementing the situations and feelings of Callie and Sara through the course of the play. At times, Sara’s costuming could profitably have given the tall, thin Brown a somewhat less angular, fuller look.
By the chronological end of the action, Callie, having only begun to be Sara’s lover before the attack, has committed to care for her. The emotional and practical challenges of being a caregiver for an individual who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, and the effects on a relationship of contending with what may well be a long-term disability, are beyond the scope of the script. The strength of Stop Kiss is that one is left hoping that two characters who are worth caring about will find the resources needed for the next steps on their path.
As the playwright put it: this is not a play about homophobia, gay bashing, or the civil rights of gays and lesbians in America. This is a love story.
Which is, of course, not to say that these issues are merely incidental to the play, nor — sadly — that they have lost any relevance over the last decade.
But this is a love story. It is about the moment when you realize how you really feel about someone. The moment when you take those first, tentative steps. And, when that first try goes terribly, unimaginably, horrifyingly wrong, the moment when you choose to keep fighting.
We tend to want everything in neat categories, with clear labels: lesbian, traffic reporter, victim, teacher, friend. But in the end, it’s simply two people who choose to be together.
This is a love story.
Photos by Harvey Levine
- Callie: Cara Duckworth
- Sara: Caity Brown
- Detective Cole: Stephen Dourgherty
- Mrs. Winsley: Shelly Rochester
- George: David Dieudonne
- Peter: Adam R. Adkins
- Nurse: Shelly Rochester
- Producer: Lennie Magida
- Director: Chris Curtis
- Stage Manager: Mallory Harney
- Set Designer: Chris Curtis & Zeke Slovak, Jr.
- Master Carpenter: Zeke Slovak, Jr.
- Scenic Painter: Chris Curtis & Mallory Harney
- Properties & Set Dressing: Sonya Okin
- Lighting Designer: James Robertson
- Sound Designer: Kevin Garrett
- Light & Sound Board Operators: Jasmine Alston, Chris Curtis, James Robertson, Adam Simms
- Costumer: Eric Scerbo
- Make-up & Hair Design: the Cast
- Artistic Liaison: Bridget Muehlberger
- Playbill Cover Design: Craig Allen Mummey
- Hospiitality: Kathie Mack
- Opening Night Reception: Lennie Magida, Richard Ley
Disclaimer: Silver Spring Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8262.
Bob Ashby has been an active participant in the Washington-area community theater scene since his arrival in town in 1975.