NEW PORT RICHEY — Even though it was written in 1998 before sea changes in public attitudes toward gay and lesbian people and several U.S. Supreme Court rulings protecting their rights, the adult drama Stop Kiss is as timely today as it was then, what with violence against gays still a threat.
In it, New York City radio traffic reporter Callie (Suzanne Meck, Jolene in Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels) agrees to tend to the cat of a friend of a friend, Sara (Gemma Davimes), a third-grade schoolteacher from St. Louis doing an internship in the Bronx. The two women soon become close friends, hanging out at West Village coffee shops and strolling through New York streets, talking into the wee hours of the morning.
Before long, the friendship intensifies into a romance, and Callie and Sara exchange a lingering kiss while sitting on a sidewalk bench at 4 a.m. They're spotted by a homophobe, who attacks and beats them up, hurling Sara into a coma. (This is told in flashback, not shown on stage.)
George (Michael McGuigan, Officer Lockstock in Urinetown; Lawrence in Scoundrels), Callie's "friend with benefits" tries to help, but it seems there is little he can do. Besides, he's a tad jealous of Callie's relationship with Sara, which colors his reaction to what has happened.
Peter (Jason Hoolihan, Oberon in Shakespeare in Hollywood), who was Sara's boyfriend in St. Louis and is still in love with her, rushes to her side and seems to be of genuine assistance, though he has no idea where it will all lead.
The play explores relationships, feelings, love, loyalty and how all that can change in a heartbeat. It has moments of comedy and moments of tragedy.
Playwright Diana Son tells the story both in the present and in flashback, fleshing out the characters and their lives. It received good reviews when it debuted in New York's Joseph Papp Public Theatre, a showcase for up-and-coming works, and its initial one-month run was extended twice, to three months.
This is the second production by the newly formed Charlie and Marie Skelton Cabaret, an offshoot of Richey Suncoast Theatre aimed at adult theatergoers. The cabaret will eventually move to the space formerly occupied by Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre on Main Street. But until unexpectedly extensive renovations to that space are completed, the plays are being presented on the stage at Richey Suncoast.