FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training is having a great year, and its current production may be its crowning glory. This meaty, well-written contemporary story about 20-somethings living in New York is perfect for the excellent student cast. With a seemingly effortless seriocomic style, the play seduces the audience into a personal understanding of its characters. Through alternating past and present scenes, it leads viewers to its shattering climax, dramatically contrasting love and hate. And, within this framework, Director Matthew Arbour creates a visceral sense of stomach-clenching violence without actually displaying it.
Diana Son was born in 1965 in Philadelphia to middle-class Korean parents. After years of steadily rising success, beginning in 2000 with the production of her first two-act play, “Stealing Fire,” her latest play has ensured her entry into the world of the American stage. Son’s catalogue of subjects focuses largely on personal identity, feminist issues, and gender roles. She says of her work, “I am consistently interested in the conflict between how other people identify you and the more complex way in which you know yourself.” “Stop Kiss” brings all of these elements to excellent fruition.
Under Arbour’s direction, the cast succeeds in demanding our attention and empathy. Lucy Lavely stars as Callie, a young woman who has a hard time believing in herself and unexpectedly falls in love with a woman. Having seen her in this and in The Players’ “Crimes of the Heart” recently, it’s my opinion that she has a big career in acting ahead of her. Tori Grace Hines plays co-lead Sara with authenticity, drawing the audience to Sara’s crucial mix of idealism and naivety. Cale Haupert successfully reveals boyfriend George’s hopeless-yet-harmless self-absorption. Reginald K. Robinson Jr. captures straight-talking detective Cole. The nicely played supporting roles are performed by Maxey Whitehead as Mrs. Winsley; Jefferson McDonald as Peter; and Kristen Lynne Blossom as the nurse.
The production is underscored by the efforts of Chris McVicker, set and lighting design; Amy J. Cianci, costume design; and Matthew Parker, sound design.
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