Corrections or additions?
New York Review: `Stop Kiss’
This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 27, 1999.
All rights reserved.
A wonderful new Off-Broadway play poses a quite ordinary
question: can an unsettled and disorganized helicopter traffic reporter
from New York City can find romance and happiness in the big apple
with a totally together third grade school teacher in the Bronx? Thirty-three-year-old
playwright Diana Son provides the answer in "Stop Kiss," a
funny, poignant, horrifying, and finally inspiring urban play.
When the two young women, Callie (Jessica Hecht) and Sara (Sandra
Oh), first meet, they haven’t a clue that their acquaintance will
develop into a friendship or into anything more than platonic. The
relationship begins amusingly when Callie, who would hardly notice
a little more litter in her dreary untidy apartment (fastidiously
evoked by designer Narelle Sissons), agrees to care for Sara’s cat.
It seems that Caesar, the (unseen) cat, is an unwelcome party in the
only low rent apartment Sara, who has just arrived in New York on
a fellowship, can find.
In that Callie has George (Kevin Carroll), her casually on-demand
lover from college days, and Sara has/had Peter (Rick Holmes), a lover
she left behind in St. Louis, their initial meetings are punctuated
with glib and savvy patter about themselves and (what else) George
As flighty and unmotivated above ground as she is below, Callie, however,
puts plenty of enthusiasm into landing a reservation at the trendiest
restaurants. As uncompromising on matters of principle as she is eager
to start a new life and deepen their relationship, Sara is wonderfully
down to earth. It is in this context that Callie and Sara are seen
in cleverly concerted contrast.
It is to the playwright’s credit that we see the gentle tug of mutual
sexual attraction kept in check, and only through the subtlest of
body language and deliberately evasive and cautious chit-chat that
we see something decidedly romantic brewing.
The play’s title refers to the casualness and the spontaneity of an
act that would be accepted as normal between a man and woman, but
which in this play prompts an act of violence. The delight we take
as two people suddenly find their true identities takes a sudden tragic
turn. This, when Callie and Sara make a fateful and unwise decision
to stop on a park bench and kiss innocently after a night dancing
at a Village bar. At that dangerous hour, when most working people
are beginning to hear their alarm clocks go off, they are brutally
attacked and beaten by a psychopath.
The comical lightness of the scenes prior to the attack are strikingly
contrasted against the darker scenes that follow. The play makes a
stunning turn that is sure to fill and break your heart. Callie is
suddenly faced with a challenge that can only succeed through a demonstration
of unselfish love. This includes making a commitment and doing things
she would never have believed herself capable of.
Similarly Sara, whose life is more unalterably changed, is stirred
and comforted enough by her friend’s unselfish devotion, to set the
healing in motion. The vivid and delightfully idiosyncratic portrayals
by both Hecht and Oh are as impressive as they are award-worthy. Under
Jo Bonney’s excellent direction, all the performances, including that
of Saul Stein, as a no-nonsense detective, and Saundra McClain, who
doubles as a witness to the crime and a nurse, will also linger in
your mind. Loaded with laughter and tears, Stop Kiss is that rare
play that makes you consider all the things in your life that matter
— Simon Saltzman
$30. Through February 21.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.