Friday, August 17, 2018
Stage

Pauses aside, fine actors relate touching story in 'Stop Kiss'

Don't get me wrong. The drama Stop Kiss has a fine script with a compelling story. The cast of the Richey Suncoast Theatre II production playing through Feb. 26, is an honor roll of the theater's best actors, plus a newcomer who promises to be a great addition to that list.

Despite all this, the play isn't quite stellar, strictly because of playwright Diana Son's many short scenes that require numerous blackouts for set dressing and costume changes. I counted at least 15 scenes during the 90-plus minutes of the one-act play, meaning most are no more than 4 or 5 minutes long, some much shorter. Even though the backstage crew works quickly and quietly to change out set dressings and pieces, there's no getting around the fact that so many pauses break the flow of the story. Fortunately, the opening night audience sat respectfully silent between scenes, for the most part, allowing patrons to reflect on what they'd seen and anticipate what might come next.

The plot centers around violence against a conventional-looking lesbian couple by an angry homophobe. Although it was written almost 20 years ago, the subject matter still resonates, more so in recent years as a top politician seems to have given such people permission to attack those who disagree with what the attacker considers correct thoughts or behaviors.

It's told in scenes alternating between the present and recent past, switching from the cozy apartment of 11-year New Yorker Callie (Suzanne Meck) to a hospital room where her lover, city newcomer Sara (Gemma Davimes), lies in a coma.

The apartment scenes show how Callie and Sara go from being friends of a mutual friend, to acquaintances, to best friends and, finally, to lovers. It's tastefully done by the two talented actors, making the audience fall in love with them as it all plays out. Callie can't understand why Sara would be willing to teach third grade in the dangerous Bronx, and Sara can't understand why Callie keeps her job as a radio traffic reporter when she views it as silly and meaningless. But they come to understand everything else about each other and are drawn together by those traits.

Michael McGuigan is excellent as George, Callie's good old, dependable "friend with benefits," who's supportive and sweet, but enraged when Callie is injured for what he sees as no good reason. Jason Hoolihan is heartbreaking as Peter, Sara's ex-boyfriend who's still in love with her and wants to nurture and protect her even though she left him. And Bob Marcela is superb as Detective Cole, needling Callie into telling the truth about the violence perpetrated against her and Sara and drawing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from a chance witness. These three accomplished actors are a joy to see, all with enough wide-ranging talent to play comedy, drama, farce or musicals, and director Vicki Schuster McGinnis wisely put them in exactly the right roles.

Emily Nettnin is fascinating as Mrs. Winsley, the West Side neighbor who's a story within herself. With her nasal accent and pushy ways, she's equally effective in exchanges with the perceptive Detective Cole and with a grief-stricken Callie. It's also good to see Anne Lakey back on stage, even in a brief role as Nurse. Her warm voice and compassionate demeanor shine through, even with just a few lines.

The many four-letter words and subject matter make this play suitable only for ages 13 and older, but those who appreciate a touching story and fine acting will surely enjoy this timely play.

Comments
What’s on stage: Countdown Improv Festival, comics Michael Coylar and Alonzo Bodden

What’s on stage: Countdown Improv Festival, comics Michael Coylar and Alonzo Bodden

SAY YES: COUNTDOWN IMPROV FESTIVAL Since its debut in Tampa last year, the 3-2-1 Improv Festival has grown in size and scope, adding acts and changing its name. Now the Countdown Improv Festival, this three-day celebration of spontaneity brings 39 gr...
Published: 08/15/18
Jobsite brings back 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' while celebrating 20 years

Jobsite brings back 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' while celebrating 20 years

The first come-to-Jesus meeting kicked off in November, as the Jobsite Theater faithful sipped beer and wine at a local pub and tried to come to grips with the future. This was, of course, inextricably tied up with its recent past, a season that sta...
Published: 08/14/18
A serious, if flawed, effort highlighting PTSD in Innovocative’s ‘Ugly Lies the Bone’

A serious, if flawed, effort highlighting PTSD in Innovocative’s ‘Ugly Lies the Bone’

TAMPA — A veteran of three tours of duty in Afghanistan returns home, her face disfigured in an explosion and dragging a stiff leg. Titusville, the Space Coast town where Lindsey Ferrentino set Ugly Lies the Bone, is reeling, too, from cutbacks to NA...
Published: 08/12/18
Updated: 08/13/18
This week: Innovocative Theatre presents PTSD drama, ‘Ugly Lies the Bone’

This week: Innovocative Theatre presents PTSD drama, ‘Ugly Lies the Bone’

INNOVOCATIVE THEATRE: UGLY LIES THE BONEAn improvised explosive device injures a veteran on her third tour of Afghanistan. She tries to get her life back in Titusville, but the road isn’t easy for Jess, her caregiver sister or her ex-boyfriend. Innov...
Published: 08/08/18
Live Oak Theatre announces 2018-19 season

Live Oak Theatre announces 2018-19 season

BROOKSVILLE — Live Oak Theatre Company has announced the 2018-19 season of shows and audition dates.The season includes three productions:• Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, will be presented weekends, Nov. 2-18.• It’s a Wonderful Life ra...
Published: 08/06/18
Florida Orchestra names Daniel Black as new assistant conductor

Florida Orchestra names Daniel Black as new assistant conductor

ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Orchestra has hired conductor Daniel Black to share an increased workload in community concerts and other special programs."As our community programs expand, it’s time to make sure they have the unique guidance they deser...
Published: 08/03/18
Updated: 08/06/18
Hawk & Wayne, Steve Byrne and more — improv and comedy thrive in the summer

Hawk & Wayne, Steve Byrne and more — improv and comedy thrive in the summer

HAWK & WAYNE: KARAOKE-PROVImprov keeps going in the summer when everyone else is dark. (They don’t have the same demands as other theaters, and they’re a free-spirited bunch.) For the past nine years, Ricky Wayne, left, and Gavin Hawk, two of the are...
Published: 08/02/18
Lateness, fighting, phones: Seven etiquette violations to avoid at the theater (and a few to disregard)

Lateness, fighting, phones: Seven etiquette violations to avoid at the theater (and a few to disregard)

You might recall the evening of Nov. 8, 2016. Millions of Americans watched election returns coming in, including what seemed like every third audience member attending opening night of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The soft glow...
Updated one month ago
Amid ‘Hamilton’ frenzy, Straz season tickets sell out for the first time in history

Amid ‘Hamilton’ frenzy, Straz season tickets sell out for the first time in history

TAMPA — Since the announcement that Hamilton would come to Tampa in February, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts has fielded inquires from hundreds of customers eager to get seats for the mega-hit musical. How much will thos...
Updated one month ago
Spring Hill playhouse presents Singin’ in the Rain Jr.

Spring Hill playhouse presents Singin’ in the Rain Jr.

SPRING HILL — A classic musical made famous by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor will come alive this weekend when the youth production of Singin’ in the Rain Jr. is presented at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd.The...
Updated one month ago