To end the season with a heart-stopping, deeply emotional show is to go out with a bang and Silver Spring Stage does just that with their production of Stop Kiss. Director Chris Curtis brings to the stage a tragic but inspiring love story; that moment when you realize how you truly feel about someone, and how many wasted moments you spent dodging those feelings up until that moment. The play is two opposites wound around itself; thematically dark and inspirationally bright, gut-wrenching sadness and giddy spring-love happiness. Follow Callie and Sara on their journeys of self-discovery, and ultimately down the path of love in this moving piece of theatre.
The one thing that holds this play from perfection is the pacing of the scene changes and the elaborate switches made to the stage’s furnishings. Set Designers Chris Curtis and Zeke Slovak Jr. have put a very unique couch into the apartment. It folds out into a bed as the audience discovers later in the play, but it doubles up as Sara’s hospital bed, and this transition is clunky and time consuming. They pause in pseudo darkness at the end of a scene, have the minor characters wheel the couch to a new angle, and begin to unfold it and pull the guard rails up to create the hospital bed while others clear most of the remaining furniture to the side of the stage. All of the scene changes have this clunky feel to them and it detracts from the play; and although there are significant time jumps in-between scenes, the audience would be able to follow without the awkwardly paced changes.
The raw talent of this show is astonishing. The production revolves heavily around Sara (Caity Brown) and Callie (Cara Duckworth) and their interactions with each other and a few other minor characters. Director Chris Curtis manages to elicit a naturally awkward relationship from these two budding friends, creating a realistic progression between their relationship as the play moves toward the end. Curtis ensures that everyone on the stage has a purpose, as the other characters are seen very infrequently and act as added filler to the truth behind the plot, Curtis is careful to make each person’s moment on stage matter.
George (David Dieudonne) is the character outside of the girls that we see the most of. Dieudonne plays the epitome of cocky jerk, creating a good needling antagonistic character to work at Callie during scenes of confrontation. He hits peaks of emotional outbursts when confronted with his own deep concern for Callie after learning of the attack and he uses vocal extremes to mask these concerns in anger and frustration.
The growing relationship we see between Duckworth as Callie and Brown as Sara is inspiring and heartwarming. From the moment they meet you can feel the nervous tensions between them, the uncertainty of their reality as they begin to experience it. Both Brown and Duckworth do an excellent job of expressing their feelings in a way that is subtle but still accessible to their stage partner as well as the audience.
Brown’s character is ever hopeful and cheery, despite sifting through moments of nerves upon first encountering the other. She is lively and present in every scene, and it is humbling to watch her later in the play when she becomes dependent on others to move her through daily routines like getting dressed. Her chemistry with Duckworth is sprightly and giddy; refreshing and bubbly as she lets her character feel more and more comfortable with the other woman through each passing scene. Brown speaks eloquently but not haughtily and can be easily understood in all of her speaking moments on stage.
Duckworth has a challenging role to master in this production and does so with extreme finesse. From the moment we encounter her spastically dancing around her apartment, letting her body loose like no one is watching, to the humbling conclusion of this play, Duckworth provides a versatile dynamic character for the audience to love. The fear in her eyes masked by confusion during her first confession with the detective in regards to the incident reaches out to the audience to make us understand how conflicted she is.
And when she struggles and finally breaks down confessing what really happened, Duckworth’s performance in that scene is so loaded with traumatic sorry that she falls into a fit of quaking tears and every eye in the audience if focused on her. She rides wave after wave of roller coastering emotions that never relent, and she never backs down, experiencing each one a they crash over her in such a way that the audience feels it too.
Silver Spring Stage’s Stop Kiss is the dramatic love story of the summer.
Running Time: Two hours with no intermission.
Stop Kiss plays through July 21, 2012 at The Silver Spring Stage – 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 593-6036, or purchase them online.