*A lone figure stands on the dimly lit stage of the Pasadena Playhouse looking out at the audience. The only thing you can decipher from the persons’ expression, is that they seem troubled. But then the scene changes abruptly, and the immediately identifiable exterior of a New York City apartment building rises up to reveal the interior of an apartment most befitting a single, young woman. Clothes are strewn everywhere.
It is here that we meet “Callie” – a lone figure no more. She now turns up the rock music on the player, and goes wild playing her air guitar. But she abruptly stops when the telephone rings and looks slightly embarrassed at “having a moment.”
In the Pasadena Playhouse production of Diana Son‘s “Stop Kiss” Sara and Callie are brutally assaulted after they share a first kiss. Witnessed by an angry bystander in New York City’s West Village late at night, the assault leaves Sara horribly injured.
“Stop Kiss” is a brutal reminder to our society that there is still so much work to do as we work towards the ability to live and let live. The production stars film and television actress Sharon Leal as “Sara,” a woman who recently arrived in New York from St. Louis with her cat, and a job waiting for her as a teacher at a public school in the Bronx. Stage and television actress Angela Lin co-stars as “Callie,” a rather nonchalant woman who makes it known that she has no appreciation whatsoever for her job as a traffic reporter. She also has a best friend named “George” with whom she enjoys sexual benefits.
In an interview with the two female leads, Angela Lin tells who her character, Callie, really is.
“I think the play is a kind of coming of age story for these two women,” Lin explains. “You see my character Callie is kind of lost…She doesn’t really know what she wants in life. You’re kind of floating, trying to discover…what kind of adult you want to be.”
As Callie awaits the arrival of Sara, a woman she has learned about through a friend and agreed to cat-sit for while she gets things in order following her move to NYC, she tells George her best friend on the phone that the woman is probably a real dud, and she is sorry she made the agreement.
But she ends up liking, and ultimately, loving, Sara.
“They’re kind of dipping into this new friendship that turns into something else that neither of them expected,” Lin continues. “It changes them – it changes them as people for the rest of their lives because of the incident that happens.
“I had heard about the play in the 90s and I knew it was very groundbreaking and special,” Leal tells EURweb/ThisNthat editor, DeBorah B. Pryor. The actress says she was encouraged to do the play by one of her agents, who is a lesbian woman. “You know, there are things that are sort of commercial, and things that are really original and speak to humanity and speak to social consciousness and I think that “Stop Kiss” is definitely one of those things.”
Leal continues, “It is about two women in very different places in their lives, who touch each others’ lives and grow together, and go through this tragic incident together. My character, [Sara], is from St Louis…[she] really knows what she wants…Very driven and clear about what she wants in her life,” Leal adds.
When asked about the challenge of doing a role that may be so opposite to who they are as people in real life, Sharon says.
“For me, as an actor, I just always want to be challenged. And I was like, ‘OK, this was going to be challenging.’ I’ve been away from the theater, and the fact that it’s on stage was intimidating to me…and it’s a completely different mechanism, and yet not.”
Angela admits, “The kissing is the easiest part. It’s getting to the kiss.” The nuance of falling in love,” after being asked if kissing a woman on the lips was awkward at all.
While Sharon chips in, “It’s all of the stuff in-between. The stuff where you have to ‘earn’ the kiss.”
Angela Lin is an absolute standout in the role of “Callie.” In this role the actress carries much of the show’s weight; and handles transitions from challenging to subtle, expertly – without leaving the stage – as scenes change rapidly right before our eyes. Lin handles this responsibility expertly and we watch in amazement of her skill. Sharon Leal is a treasure as “Sara.” Her Sara is very much in sync (and on-point) with Callie in those “awkward” moments especially; and the actress shines, even more, after “the incident” when she must communicate without words.
Other standouts in “Stop Kiss” include John Sloan as “George,” Brandon Scott as “Peter” – Sara’s ex, (even in the short time he was on stage) and Jeff De Serrano as a terrific “Detective Cole.”
Diana Son’s play minces no words. The dialogue is expertly written; and provides each actor with opportunities to shine.
The role of Sara was originated by actress Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) and Jessica Hecht in 1998 at Joseph Papps Public Theater in New York.
Seema Sueko makes an exceptionally awesome directing debut with this production at The Pasadena Playhouse.
The only thing greater than David F. Weiner ‘s authentic-looking New York set, was the sheer effortlessness of its movement from one scene to another. Simply awesome.
I asked the ladies what thoughts they would like audiences to leave the theater with. How they want people to feel after seeing the play.
“I like the idea of everybody leaving feeling connected to one another. There’s a universal feeling that takes place. There’s this tingly kind of hopeful feeling that takes place. Knowing there is a commonality in all walks of life…There is a nice balance in this play. There’s all kinds of comedy, and its heartwarming, ” Sharon Leal offers.
Angela Lin quotes a character from the TV show, ‘The Office’ where the gist of the message is not wanting people to waste time. To just dive in [to life.] She says, “I hope this play makes people realize that sometimes we have to go after the things that we love. The people that we love. Instead of hiding in fear. Hiding because of what people will think of you…You hope to be like Sarah’s character; in that you know what you want, but you don’t want a tragic incident like that to make you finally realize [it].
“Fear is a down payment on something that will never happen,” is a quote that Lin recalled. She relates this to the what if factor. “You create the fear in your mind of something that may never happen,” she adds.
This play is an absolute must see, for anyone interested in the honesty and innocence of how a true love story can begin.
“Stop Kiss” runs Tuesday through Sunday at The Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California through November 30. For more information or to purchase tickets visit pasadenaplayhouse.org
DeBorah B. Pryor is a veteran writer based in Los Angeles. She is the author of “Public Speaking for the Private Person,” and “How to Talk to Anybody II,” communications classes she has taught at UCLA Extension and throughout Los Angeles. DeBorah is also an independent associate with LegalShield. She can be reached at [email protected]