Theater archives

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.