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Stop And Think: 'Stop Kiss' At The Pasadena Playhouse

David Delgado |
November 14, 2014 | 9:21 a.m. PST


Angela Lin and Sharon Leal in "Stop Kiss" (Photo by Jim Cox)
Angela Lin and Sharon Leal in "Stop Kiss" (Photo by Jim Cox)
The sense of forbidden love that audience members have flocked to with “Romeo and Juliet” is seen in abundance at the Pasadena Playhouse with their production of “Stop Kiss” not only because of the struggle that burdens true love, but also because of the fact that it has become a modernized 'Juliet and Juliet' lesbian love story.

“Stop Kiss” follows the unexpected romance of two women, but the audience is aware immediately through a time jump used throughout the play that not all is well.  Playwright Diana Son is able to trace a genuine love story that focuses on the simple start of a relationship which is burdened with bigotry, hate and terror, leaving the audience with a call to action of acceptance and love. 

Taking place in New York City, the protagonists Sara (Sharon Leal) and Callie (Angela Lin) meet by chance only to find a friendship that blooms into something greater. Callie, being a native New Yorker, happily meets Sara through a mutual friend and aides her transition from a small city near St. Louis to the city that never sleeps. The relationship begins simple enough: through Callie agreeing to take care of Sara’s cat since her apartment does not allow it. After meals, conversations and simply being together, they find that attraction is not just inevitable... but beautiful. This coupling is assumed by the time one sits down to the playbill modeling two women lovingly caressing one another just as much as the audience assumes that the relationship is in dire straights from the opening scene of Callie, in tears, displaying a sense of dramatic irony that is used as a forward throughout the show. We find out that after their first kiss they become victims of a hate crime and it leaves one to not only root for their love to succeed, but to exterminate bigotry and hatred.

Getting right down to what true theater is about, director Seema Sueko leads these two actresses into a world of truth. Sharon Leal and Angela Lin portray two characters that are developed from head to toe, which is a success in itself, but leaves the audience in awe by the chemistry felt between them throughout the entire show. Being a display of the genuine uncertainty not only of gay relationships but of relationships in general, one is forced to hope for the survival of blooming love which is stained with the dramatic irony that the plays withholds. This all too real portrayal of 'gay bashing' strikes deep with words that ring true and plead with each person to act upon them. 

SEE ALSO: Theater Review: 'Above The Fold' At The Pasadena Playhouse

Looking past the drama and seriousness of the production that maintains constant attention for a show without an intermission, the audience laughs, smiles, and reminisces on the stark reality that is found in the absurdity of how relationships begin and play out. Be it Callie rocking out to “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2, or Sara awkwardly asking if Callie would like to go to a lesbian bar, everyone is able to relate to the questioning feeling of a new relationship that strikes us in the gut with fluttering butterflies.

Applause is also in need for the strong supporting cast members, who sometimes play double roles, but who also give all of their energy to the story of these women. Amanda Carlin who plays both a nurse and a lovable bystander who witnesses the crime, as well as John Sloan who plays George, Callie’s on-and-off lover, continuously highlight the two main actresses with their flawless portrayal of people caught up in their own lives within the time and situation of this narrow-mindedness. 

Angela Lin and Sharon Leal in "Stop Kiss" (Photo by Jim Cox)
Angela Lin and Sharon Leal in "Stop Kiss" (Photo by Jim Cox)
Each acting choice found in these accurate depictions of two clashing stories parallels the sometimes clashing scene transitions from past to present. In accordance with the acting, the lighting (designed by Lap Chi Chu) and sound (designed by Joe Huppert) are often poignantly lifelike, but with a few instances, the audience is left feeling cheated by the cut off sentimentality of a scene. With a bright flash of light into the next scene followed by a harsh rock song which leads the audience into an emotionally wounded and depressed Callie. This abrasive choice that in some ways emulates the idea of the title “Stop Kiss” lacks meaning and often detracts from the beautiful, realistic, and minimalistic work that carries throughout the rest of the show in terms of production design. 

If you do not stand up against intolerant thinking toward homosexuals and your fellow man in general, just as the audience stood for a standing ovation during curtain call, then you must have fallen asleep during the show or you must lack compassion. The valuable lesson and the priceless emotion one can take away from this show are indescribable until viewed. There is hope and prayer for this beautiful love, then harsh writhing at the idea that it may not work. Ending as it began, with a fun-loving U2 song, the audience is left with blind, unending hope for the beautiful and sublime notions of love and connectibility that push everyone to go out and change the minds and actions of all they know.

"Stop Kiss" is playing through November 28 at the Pasadena Playhouse (39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena CA 91101). Tickets are $30-$125. For more information visit PasadenaPlayhouse.org

Reach Contributor David Delgado here

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