Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011

Stop Kiss: A Love Story And More

UWM features Callie Marie Eberdt and Brianna Borouchoff in one of the best Milwaukee stage romances of the year.

By Russ Bickerstaff
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I absolutely LOVED Stop Kiss. The latest in UWM’s Labworks series, the relatively new play by Diana Son is staged in a very cozy studio theatre atmosphere wit just enough set and costuming to render background for a really good ensemble drama.

Actually, there are bits of the play that feel kind of like a period piece set in 1998, which feels a little strange. No one seems to be carrying around cell phones and, early on, a character pops a CD into a stereo. And while I realize these aren’t real prominent aspects of the show, it amuses me to think that much of the cast appears to be a t that age where they would’ve been like . . . in junior high school in the fall of 1998 when the play is set. This is only significant as an idle curiosity as there’s nothing else here to signify era. It’s New York.. It’s the present. It’s a love story.

Senior acting student Callie Marie Eberdt plays a character named Callie. She’s a New Yorker who does the traffic report for a radio station. We meet her as she’s meeting someone else . . . a schoolteacher named Sara (Brianna Borouchoff.) Sara just moved into the area to teach school. The place she’s moving into doesn’t allow cats. Callie’s place does, so Sara’s giving her cat to Callie. They don’t really know each other, but they get to know each other over the course of the play. They fall in love.

Callie and Sara’s first kiss happens in a public park. They get attacked shortly thereafter. Callie’s relatively okay. Sara’s not . . . hospitalized with a very, very long road to recovery, Callie tries to deal with life as best as possible. One of the really brilliant things about the script is that it allows the story to play out in a way that is kind of parallel nonlinear . . . that is to say . . . scenes of Callie and Sara meeting and scenes happening after the attack happen in chronological order, they just alternate with each other throughout the play. In the end, we see the kiss that prompted the attack and hints at the fate of their relationship beyond it.

The parallel linear plots make for kind of a brilliantly clever attachment to the characters. We see Callie and Sara meet and then we find out they’re going to be attacked after their first kiss. One of them is going to be hospitalized. And they’re both very charming people who are both really charmingly played by Eberdt and Brouchoff, so we want them to fall in love, but we also know that once they do, they’re going to be attacked. What Diana Son does with that dynamic is fun, funny and immensely enjoyable from beginning to end.   

We see much of the play through Callie’s eyes. The character as written by Son is witty, charming and immensely likable. Eberdt does a really good job of bringing this to the intimate stage. We’re allowed to see her getting ready for each of her pre-kiss meetings with Sara—Eberdt’s performance in those silent moments before the conversation tell us as  much about the character as the actual conversations do. It’s fun . . . and Eberdt is endlessly charming in the role. We feel her affections and her anxieties playing out in every subtle motion. There’s a sharply intricate subtlety written into the sript that Eberd plays with quite brilliantly here. The character of Callie is so much fun here as played out by Eberdt that I wish I’d known her thirteen years ago. It’s the type of contemporary love story that makes you want to hang out with the characters afterwards.

Of course, there’s a very serious and very tragic element that’s going on here involving the unique tragedies of two women falling in love and then getting attacked because of it. The social implications of the story hauntingly resonate through various scenes including those with Rick Frecska as Detective Cole—an officer investigating the attack—Frecska is very professional in the role of a guy who is very professional in his job, but we can sense a frustration for the character as people simply don’t feel comfortable talking about things . . . Callie and Sarah were only just starting to fall in love and it seems as though Callie was only beginning to think of herself in relationship to her sexuality when the attack happened . . . their difficulty parsing through that was made all the more difficult by the attack. And thanks to powerfully endearing performances by Eberdt and Brouchoff, we care about these two characters as people . . . we want them to get through the attack. This is more than just social commentary . . . this is a love story between two people and its one of the best to be staged in Milwaukee this year.

UWM Theatre’s production of Stop Kiss runs through December 11th at KSE 508 in Kenilworth Square East on 2155 North Prospect Avenue. For ticket reservations, call 414-229-4308.

 

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