REVIEW: Stop Kiss @ Above the Stag

Brian Butler November 10, 2019

Stop Kiss

Above the Stag

Vauxhall, London

Callie is an unhappy traffic reporter on a New York tv channel. Sara is a highly dedicated teacher in an under-privileged neighbourhood in the Bronx. What could they possible have in common?

Well nothing it seems at first- Callie has grudgingly agreed as  a friend of a friend to look after Sara’s grumpy (unseen) cat Caesar . They seem to irritate one another when they first meet. This taut drama has the underlying theme of the problem of acknowledging one’s sexuality and as the bond between the two women grows so does the tension.

A relationship that isn’t consummated can still provide a lot of humour and the comic timing between the two lead characters couldn’t be sharper as they grapple – our rather don’t – with the physical side of their relationship.

Throw in a couple of unsympathetic ex-boyfriends and the story gets more and more tangled. A chance kiss in a West Village street leads to a horrendous physical assault on Sara , who ends up in a coma.

Playwright Diana Son weaves us in and out of a non-linear timeline, cutting between short scenes either side of the attack to add more insight and pathos to the story.

The crime is treated with disdain by the police and bewilderment by the ex boyfriends . And worse still Callie is reluctantly “ outed “ by the subsequent publicity. Just when you think the play couldn’t get gloomier there’s a kind of redemptive catharsis as Callie tells the paralysed and speechless Sara “ choose me “ – its a powerful and touching moment.

Kara Taylor Alberts is wonderfully calm and level-headed as the warm and witty Sara – far more comfortable with her lesbianism than her new friend.

Suzanne Boreel is a steely, nervy, self-deprecating Callie rushing around trying to find a purpose in life and finally achieving it from the worst of circumstances.  They are both electrifying performances in this tight intimate studio space.

Director Rafaella Marcus makes good us of the compact acting area but is hampered by some repetitious over-writing which doesn’t advance the story. If 10 or 15 minutes were jettisoned , it would be a gem of a play.

As Andrew Beckett’s first choice as artistic director of the Above the Stag Theatre, it bodes well for his future programming.

Stop Kiss is at the Above the Stag, in Vauxhall, London

Until 1 December. For more info or to book tickets see their website.