Stop Kiss Extends Its Run at Empire Stage
The way love can be impacted by hate, and the way love can grow and endure despite tragedy, is at the center of Stop Kiss by Diana Son, an engrossing play now enjoying a solid production by new company Infinite Abyss and now running through May 9 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.
Callie (Monica Garcia) is a savvy New Yorker who becomes fast friends with Sara (Danielle Tabino), a recent transplant from St. Louis. Callie has an on-again, off-again intimate relationship with college chum George (Todd Bruno), while Sara has left a fiance (Alejandro Posada) back home. As the two women bond over restaurants and job frustrations, they each struggle with an unexpected attraction to the other. When they do finally take a step toward exploring those feelings through a kiss, they become the target of a hate crime.
Stop Kiss is a fascinating play made up of more than 20 non-linear scenes, beginning with their first meeting and then jumping to Callie being questioned after the attack, which leaves Sara critically injured. The structure adds tension to the story, concurrently illustrating Callie and Sara’s burgeoning relationship and the aftermath of their kiss.
The structure also requires a lot from the two actresses, who often must switch gears from a comedic scene to a tragic scene with only a minute or so in between. This is especially true for Garcia, who is in almost every scene. Garcia is up to the task, delivering a believable, nuanced performance, balancing Callie’s street smarts with heartbreaking vulnerability. Tabino also turns in solid work as Sara, especially in the way she combines desire and hesitancy when Sara tests the romantic waters with Callie.
Director Jeffrey D. Holmes wears many hats for this production—he also did the set, light and sound design, and mans the booth during the show. His work on all fronts is impressive. The lighting is evocative, his music choices enhance the action and his set, primarily Callie’s apartment, is organic to the character. The only thing that needs improving is the pace, not so much in the scenes themselves but in the blackouts, which often go on too long.
Stop Kiss is the debut production from Infinite Abyss, founded by Holmes and Erinn Dalton, both longtime members of Sol Theatre Project, the now-defunct company that turned this small, warehouse-style space into a venue for provocative theatre nearly 10 years ago. Stop Kiss is an impressive debut for Infinite Abyss, one that honors the legacy of Sol and also holds the promise of great work to come.
Stop Kiss at Empire Stage
1140 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale
DATES: Runs through May 9