Fateful Love

Diana Son's Stop Kiss (Public Theater) jangles and crackles like a clangorous New York street on a summer night; it bristles with cynical asides and wiseass retorts as it follows the meeting and mating of two women. Callie is the quintessential young downtowner—hip, knowing, disaffected. A TV traffic reporter, she comically laments, "Who am I helping? I don't even know anyone with a car!" Sara is an idealistic arrival from St. Louis, on a fellowship to teach at a Bronx school.

The chemistry between these two previously straight women bubbles up naturally—from helpless giggles to tentative touches. By the end of the first scene we know a kiss is coming. By the end of the second, we see its near-tragic result.

Mechanically, the play alternates between the charmed, anticipatory present and the near future—where Sara lies first comatose, then aphasic, in a hospital, put there by a gay-basher who sees them kiss. Structured this way, the piece's fizz gradually leaks out, as Sara's hovering family vie with Callie over who will keep her.

Son, whose dismal Fishes also centered on caring for an aphasic, seems determined to deal with this theme. In Stop Kiss, it seems contrived, based on the premise that giving in to your heart's desire sparks doom. I don't buy it. But Jessica Hecht's jittery, smart-mouthed Callie makes us laugh, and Sandra Oh's Sara is beguiling. Throughout, director Jo Bonney lets loose the frenetic rhythms of the city and of mating—sirens, raucous music, and thundering footsteps punctuated by the perfectly timed pauses that precede comic explosions.

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