Just last month, a lesbian couple was attacked on a bus in London when a group of men saw them kissing. It’s surprising that this would happen in the year of our lord, twenty bi-teen, but it’s instances like this that makes Stop Kiss a necessary watch. In what could only be described as a coincidence, the play is having its second run in Manila this month, and it mirrors the horrific accident that happened in the United Kingdom.
In Stop Kiss, Callie and Sara are assaulted after sharing a kiss in a park in New York. The story is not set in chronological order, allowing the audience to see how their relationship blossoms and how it is affected after the hate crime. At its core, it is an exploration of what it means to choose love.
The play was written by Diana Son and first mounted in 1998 in New York. It was staged in Manila in 2003, and in another strange turn of events, Jenny Jamora and Missy Maramara, the actresses who played the roles 16 years ago, are both returning to play each other.
One of the things I love about this run of Stop Kiss is the intimacy both actresses shared on stage. It’s a quality that’s important to the story of a burgeoning romance, and it’s one that can be achieved through talent or knowing each other and the roles for almost two decades. Jamora and Maramara are gifted with all three.
Both Jamora and Maramara are perfect for their roles. And their characters are quite interesting since they contradict each other, and sometimes, themselves. Jamora’s Sara is the shy grade school teacher from Missouri, but she’s headstrong and feisty. Maramara’s Callie is a tough-talking New Yorker, but she’s more reserved and cautious. It was an absolute joy seeing their dynamic on stage, bolstered by the fact that the roles practically belong to them.
The other actors are enjoyable to watch as well, with Tarek El Tayech playing Callie’s friend with benefits George, Gabe Mercado as Sara’s ex-boyfriend Peter, Robbie Guevara as Detective Cole, Jay Valencia-Glorioso as the eccentric witness Mrs. Winsley, and J-mee Katanyag as the nurse leading Sara back to health. Director Ed Lacson, Jr. gathered a great bunch of thespians.
Another thing I loved about Stop Kiss is the staging. It’s deceptively simple but stylish. It’s an empty stage bathed in pink, with props moved around as needed. Transitions run smoothly with a board that is slid left to right, an impressive sight in the dark. I know it doesn’t sound extraordinary when I describe it, but there’s a cinematic quality to the way the show is produced.
It’s understandable that Stop Kiss was produced in 1998. It was a time when people were still grappling with social issues like sexuality. But the thought that we’re still struggling to accept and respect those with different gender identities and expressions is beyond me. And as long as we hear about attacks like what happened to the couple in London, we need Stop Kiss to continue spreading its message. We need them to continue kissing.
This story is in partnership with Stop Kiss. Stop Kiss is being staged at the Power Mac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati, from July 12 to 14 and July 19-21, 2019. The play is produced by Positive Space, MusicArtes, and New Voice Company. Buy tickets here. For more information, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.