‘Stop Kiss’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 16, 2017

‘Stop Kiss’ is an adult love story written by Diana Miae Son, who was born in Philadelphia to Korean parents. She is an American Emmy-nominated playwright, television producer, and writer.

At the age of only nine, after seeing ‘Hamlet’ – with a female lead – Diana decided she wanted to be a scriptwriter. ‘Stop Kiss’ was her first full-length play, and it debuted in 1998; even after the shock factor of the first night’s performance, Diana realised she could make a living from her writing.

This controversial, 100-minute play is being presented by the Melville Theatre Company, in the Melville Theatre, on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway in Melville.

The curtain goes up on this 90-minute (no interval) show at 8.00 pm each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night until 23rd September.

 

The scene is New York in 1999.

Two excellent sets built by Lars, Vanessa and Jacob Jensen.

Two thirds of the stage is taken up with the sitting room of Callie’s untidy flat. The wall structure is realistic, incorporating various corners and built in cupboards, and not the simple ‘box’ presented by most companies. There are white melamine shelving units and coffee table. A smart, black leather bed settee is centre stage. The front door which has an electronic buzzer, opens directly into the loungeroom. The remaining stage area is a hospital ward with a genuine hospital bed. The stage apron is used for minor scenes including a café, police station, park and night club. The set was painted by Ross Bertinshaw and Don Callison.

With twenty-three scenes and dozens of costume changes for the two leads, Megan Burley’s position as Stage Manager was most demanding, even with the help of Valerie Henry and Michelle Sharp.

 

        30-years old, New York, traffic reporter, Callie (Kayti Murphy) has promised to look after Caesar – a friend’s cat. The cat’s owner is junior school teacher, Sara (Jessica Warriner), a conscientious woman who has just arrived from St. Louis, but is not allowed animals in her apartment. Both girls have just finished long term relationships with men they have known for years. Callie’s ‘ex’, is George (Shaun Griffin), pleasant – but not her type – who lives nearby. Sara’s old partner, Peter (Thomas Dimmick) thankfully lives well away.

        A month later, we find Callie in a police interview room being grilled by an obnoxious police officer, Detective Cole (Willy Smeets). The scene oscillates back in time to the early days of the couple meeting and how much they enjoy each other’s company.

        The action jumps forward again by a couple of weeks, and we now find Sara in the bed of a hospital’s intensive care unit, under the attention of a caring nurse (Michelle Sharp). Callie meets up with Mrs Winsley (Valerie Henry), a conciliatory woman who lives near the local park.

        Their acquaintanceship becomes a close, mutual attraction. Until one night as they are walking home.

 

Director, Vanessa Jensen has done a wonderful job directing this play. It must build up the chemistry between the two women slowly and subtly, and the actors – Kayti and Jessica – were outstanding.

Sadly, there was one problem, the number of scene changes. Since 2000, the playwright has been a story editor for TV’s ‘The West Wing’, and this script was obviously written as it would have been for television. In the theatre, the huge number of scene changes broke up the actors’ hard work, losing some of the momentum, tension and emotion. The scene changes were most efficient, and the costume changes incredibly fast, but the writer seemed to finish most scenes with both actors on stage, when the very next scene opened with the two women, days later in totally different circumstances. In television, one has the luxury of stopping the action, editing and having leisurely costume changes; in the theatre there is no such diversion, the audience must sit until the actors are ready. This is a real pity because the storyline was good, the actors supreme but the stop start was annoying.

In view of the present marriage vote, this is a very topical presentation. It is a chronicle built around the numerous choices we have to make in our daily lives, and how a simple decision could change our future forever.

The houses have been a little disappointing, possible due to the bold and daring topic, but ‘theatre’ is about trying something new, and quality acting. This production certainly has both.

Great teamwork. Highly recommended.