Native New Yorker Callie was portrayed by theatre major Marlena Elliot (left) and her love interest Sarah was played by theatre major Emily Perry. Photo by Katie Compton
The University of Montevallo Theatre Department began their theater season on Oct. 4 with “Stop, Kiss.” Written by Diana Son, the story focuses on the budding relationship of two women in New York and an attack that leaves one of them comatose.
The play focuses mainly on the character of Callie, played in UM’s production by theater major Marlena Elliot. A New Yorker at heart, Callie has lived in the city for 11 years, working as a traffic reporter. She’s content with her life, and when “a friend of an old friend of someone she used to be friends with” asks Callie to foster her cat, she finds that she can’t say no.
Enter Sarah – a Saint Louis native with dreams of moving to New York to teach in the Bronx, played by theater major Emily Perry. The two immediately hit it off and begin to talk about their lives and their aspirations, or lack thereof. The scene ends with Callie promising that Sarah can come to visit anytime and their relationship is formed.
Immediately after that scene the set is cleared save for one table in the center of the stage. Then the lights come up and the mood has changed. Callie is being interrogated by Detective Cole, played by Brandon Bishop, about an attack that left Sarah in a coma. He alludes to Sarah being Callie’s girlfriend and Callie is on the defensive, claiming that Sarah is just her friend and that they were attacked at random.
The play goes back and forth after this, one scene happening before the attack and the next happening after, culminating in the final scene of Callie kissing Sarah, leaving the audience with the necessary clues to deduce what happened next.
As “Stop, Kiss” is told in a nonlinear fashion, many times the show required a certain speed to some scenes. Actors had to go from jovial to tortured in a flash, sets had to go between Callie’s living room to the hospital and back again quicker than you could blink. In many cases, shows with such limited space and cast can get caught up in the speed of a production, but this cast was impeccable. Also acting as the set crew, the seven-student cast worked fluidly with one another to set up scenes and to continue the flow of the show even through the semi-blackouts.
The minimalistic set design by UM Professor Kel Laeger also added to the versatility of the stage, allowing the simplistic set composed of a handful of one-sided blocks to change seamlessly from one environment to another. Each set change was also accompanied by a projected picture on the wall as well to show the audience where they would be going next. It was an innovative way to mix the traditional idea of a set and the limitations of the Chichester Black Box.
“Stop, Kiss” was a powerful production filled with varied emotions from the cast. Most notably was Marlena Elliot as Callie, who went from sobbing wildly while telling her story to Detective Cole to laughing with Emily back on her couch in the past in a matter of seconds.
Also notable was freshman Lucas Younts playing the role of Peter, Sarah’s ex-boyfriend. While not a main character in the production, the few scenes Younts appeared in were captivating and you could really feel how deep his character’s love for her was.
There was not a dry eye left in the house as the cast took their bows, and as I was leaving it was hard not to overhear the number of students who seemed to appreciate the deeper meaning of the show. Even though the show was written in 1998, many of the anti-LGBTQ issues that Callie and Sarah face are still prevalent in society today.
Through excellent direction, incredible technical design and an amazing cast, “Stop, Kiss” succeeded at telling a bittersweet love story that takes the audience through a flurry of emotions and ultimately leaves them feeling bittersweet.