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Friends, lovers face tragedy in ‘Stop Kiss’

Mark Wittee | Thursday, April 10, 2008

“Stop Kiss,” directed by Katie Sullivan, opens tonight and runs through Sunday at the Little Theater at Saint Mary’s College. Starring SMC senior theater majors Caroline Walker, as the confident Callie, and Ayslinn McGovern as the Midwestern Sara, the play chronicles a friendship that develops between the two characters and a kiss they share which forever changes their lives. It is a story about relationships, the power of love and the devastating effects of intolerance, hate and violence.

The play appealed to Sullivan both in credentials and in theme.

“I am always looking for a play which features great roles for women,” she said. “I am interested in supporting women playwrights, and I am particularly interested in contemporary plays which have been received well by the larger theatrical and literary community.”

As well, the play’s deeper matters were hard to pass up.

“The play spoke loudly to me in its plea for non-violence in our world,” Sullivan said. “Both in the larger global picture and in the small individual choices we make every day.”

“Stop Loss” was written by the black playwright Diana Son and first performed in 1998 at The Public Theater in New York City. Although it’s been a decade since then, the play’s theme has grown stronger and more pertinent in Sullivan’s opinion.

“Nearly ten years later, I find the specter of violence in this play even more heart-rending than Son’s message of love and eventual self-sacrifice,” she said.

“Stop Kiss” is a tragic comedy, whose characters Sullivan trusts will make its audience laugh, think and possibly cry.

“I am hoping to touch viewers with their story and help them see that, at the basic level, people everywhere are so much more alike than different,” she said.

Operating in 23 short scenes, the play makes use of a “converging timeline,” a theatrical technique which allows the play to jump back and forth between “pre-kiss” and “post-kiss” scenes. The unusual structure is something that will challenge audiences to really pay attention to what’s going on, and as Sullivan hopes, lend sophistication to the play.

The structure of the play actually benefited the director and her actors who had difficulties with scheduling.

“Until last week, we only had our seven actors available together on the same night one time,” Sullivan said. “However, the scene-by-scene structure of the show really made this much less of an issue than it would have been in a more conventionally written play.”

Sullivan also said that working with the lead actresses has been a delight.

“I feel so fortunate to have them in these roles,” she said. “They are both hard-working, serious actors who are very receptive to notes, enjoy the process of rehearsing, and yet are low-maintenance and easy-going with a director.”

Moreover, Sullivan felt that their dedication paid off and that both Walker and McGovern grew immensely as actors during their two months of rehearsal.

“I especially applaud them because in addition to having to go back and forth in time (and emotional states) constantly, they now have to be able to handle the practical matters like extremely fast costume and set changes,” she said.

However, Sullivan has faith that both her actresses as well as her entire thirteen man crew, including a feline, are up to the task. All she needs now is an audience.

Contact Mark Witte at [email protected]