Review: The Tragedy and Tenderness of Stop Kiss

The playbill for “Stop Kiss” is held out in front of the set. Played by Albion College's theatre department, "Stop Kiss" tells a gripping story of queer love in the 90s (Photo by Natalie Altayeb).

“Stop Kiss” is a production that revolves around two women and their experiences exploring their queerness in 1999. When Sara meets Callie, the two quickly become inseparable. Within the span of a few months, the friendship blossoms into a romance that defies all odds. However, when their first kiss provokes a violent attack, their worlds are turned upside down. 

Filled with an incredibly talented cast and crew, the Albion Theatre department takes the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions that illustrates the way lives can change in an instant. 

The play uses flashback and forward scenes which depict what leads up to and happens after their first kiss. The switch between past and present provides a way for viewers to piece together what happened, predict what will happen and understand the main characters’ perspectives.

While the production revolves around Callie, played by Columbus, Ohio junior Orion Hower, and Sara, played by Hamilton junior Hannah Fathman, the rest of the cast provide complexity to their story through their characters. 

Orville first-year Seph Cartier; Woodbridge, Virginia junior Elena Mourad; Dallas senior Angel Arguijo; and Dallas first-year AJ Christian shine in their respective roles.

Although I was on the edge of my seat the whole performance, one moment in particular stands out. Towards the middle of the production, Callie and Sara find themselves in an argument. While on the surface the argument is about an award show meant to be attended by Hower’s character, it soon takes on a different meaning. 

Throughout the argument, both characters grow physically close together before abruptly moving away like ocean waves in a storm. Even as they throw words at each other, their tones are tender, as if afraid to truly do damage. Hower and Fathman give audience members the chance to read between the lines and realize the argument is more about where their characters’ relationship lies.

To me, the argument embodies the plight of navigating a relationship that the world refuses to accept. This unique dialogue lets its audience understand the frustration of being queer, not only in the 90s, but today just over 20 years later. 

Callie’s perspective is one of fear for their future, while Sara’s is that said future may never transpire. 

The argument is never fully resolved, which speaks even further to the complexity and frustration that comes with hiding your identity. 

However, the next flash-forward scene shows Callie as she begins to realize her connection to Sara and her desire to be more than friends. As she sits alone in her apartment ruminating on the argument, she recognizes her love for Sara means more than what others may think. 

Another moment that especially stood out was an interrogation scene between Callie and the detective. Within the span of a few minutes, it is fully revealed that Sara and Callie were assaulted in the park that night following their first kiss. While the assailant nor the actual assault is not shown, it is insinuated that it was a homophobic attack through language used in Callie’s monologue.

Towards the end of the play, Callie is seen pleading with Sara to let her take care of her once she is officially discharged from the hospital. 

This is paralleled with the final scene in which the two fully share their first kiss, this time with the audience understanding the full picture. 

While there was no resolution and therefore no storybook ending, it makes the production more impactful to me. It shows how, often, life isn’t fair, and all we can do is love and support one another. There is no set ending to some situations, only a winning interpretation. 

The play is filled with tragedy, but tenderness manages to shine through it all. 

“Stop Kiss” is poignant and important – it not only asks but requires the audience to reflect on the experiences of their queer loved ones.

“It’s exciting to experience ‘Stop Kiss’ now that it exists as a snapshot of a moment in queer history and a time capsule of 90’s culture,” Director Zach Fischer wrote in the playbill.

However, the play also painfully highlights how violence against queer people is still endemic. LGBTQ+ rights are threatened daily, and the fight for equality is constant. 

“But as Callie and Sara discover, true love is a patient and fierce fighter. It’s undeniable and resilient. And in the end, love always wins,” Fischer wrote. 

Don’t miss the chance to look back into queer history. Catch one of the three upcoming shows: tonight at 7:30 p.m., and tomorrow at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

About Killian Altayeb 22 Articles
Killian Altayeb is from Novi, Michigan and is a second-year student at Albion College. They are a Biochemistry Major with a journalistic interest in all things public health. Contact Killian via email at NA12@albion.edu.

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