Straddle or swerve?

A few words on Stop Kiss MNL

Manila, 21 July—We caught the Friday night staging of Diana Son’s play “Stop Kiss” at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati, my first play in this venue. We were lucky to have heard about this play soon enough, because it only runs until tonight, July 21st.

(Warning: Contains spoilers.)

It’s always refreshing to watch a queer story come to life at the hands of spectacular actresses. Missy Maramara plays Callie, a traffic reporter in New York City, whose life takes an unexpected turn when she meets Sara (Jenny Jamora), an idealistic public school teacher who is new to New York.

The play eventually unfurls into two timelines—one which follows the blossoming of Callie and Sara’s relationship and how they try to navigate through their attraction, and one which follows Callie as she tries to cope in the aftermath of a hate crime that puts Sara in a coma.

The hate crime, while never really explicitly shown, hovers throughout the entire show like a heavy ghost. It’s a difficult watch, but a necessary one. This Diana Son play may be two decades old, but still it rings true—I can’t help but remember the women who were assaulted just last month in London for refusing to kiss on a bus.

While crime is an event that can happen to most anyone, regardless of orientation, ‘hate crime’ is something that is sadly all-too-familiar to members of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m just glad that there are plays like Stop Kiss where the hate crime is a central part of the story. Ms Maramara’s performance as Callie is breathtaking and heartbreaking. Watching her undergo misogynist interrogation and victim-blaming at the hands of a police detective is harrowing; I had a lump in my throat throughout.

But the hardship is only half of it; the play is also as much about the evolution of the relationship between Callie and Sara from friendship to something more. Maramara and Jamora’s chemistry onstage is spot-on, and together they deliver a performance that’s relatable and tender and adorable and funny.

(Aside: Many times I sensed some double entendres—my feature pick is the “Rabbit on the road. Do you swerve or straddle / I would straddle the rabbit” exchange. When I looked around the room, it was so quiet, I got so self-conscious about laughing out loud in the dark LOL I wanted to ask, Are any of you guys lesbians?!? When someone says straddle the rabbit, you must laugh! Or is that just me? ANYWAY.)

Speaking of relatable: I also have a long list of ‘kilig’ moments and favourite tiny lesbian details that had C and I swooning. Listing down a few, because I can:

  • The sofa bed in the living room pulls out and it’s comfortable

  • There is an invisible cat named Ceasar and the lesbians fight over co-parenting it

  • Always wine-drunk before 6pm, check.

  • Speaking of 6pm: LOL that on-the-dot upper room sexcapade on Thursday nights

  • SHARING! CLOTHES!

  • Sara’s fucking beanie. I mean.

  • HAND! HOLDING!

  • SLEEP! OVERS! Sara’s PLAID SHIRT! That she just happens to lug around, apparently. Good job.

  • Fighting over dressing up and going out is utterly relatable, and so is the passive aggressive eye-rolling and the tantrum, gods. This scene is delicious, because Callie doesn’t seem to understand why she’s so upset that Sara’s underdressed and Sara doesn’t seem to understand why Callie’s all worked up, even when she made an effort (however miniscule) to pick out a dress from Callie’s closet, like. What even is this? Are we dating?!? Why are you mad??? Why am I mad?? It’s great and confusing like the best of them friends-to-lovers transitions.

  • The whole tiptoeing around the thing: Have you ever? With women? I mean. I have never? With women? There’s a place in this part of town. With women. Do you want to maybe go? We can meet people. Wait, did you want to meet someone? I do—but not that way! Oh god, no. Oh good.—So damn good, y’all. If you’ve ever beat around the bush with someone you’re trying to figure out, I’m sure this would ring true.

  • That scene where the two timelines merge. I can’t even describe it, but it’s the point where everything else comes together—and it’s not just the two actresses, but the set and the lights and the music. Everything. In the scene, post-hate crime Callie stands to the side, talking out loud while replaying a key moment with Sara in her head. In this scene, Sara is also onstage, but her lighting is mellow; it’s a flashback. I don’t understand it immediately, but the moment it falls into place, my brain melts and explodes at the same time, and my heart grows a couple of sizes as it turns inside my chest. I hold my breath, because that’s how it feels like: Like Callie is underwater, just swimming through this one memory, and everything is hazy and beautiful. It’s great. The memory ends with Sara hugging Callie, and it comes across as that moment where the two timelines finally collide and oh the way Callie breaks down at that. Just fantastic. I actually blurted out loud, in the dark, This is a fucking good scene. Kinda reminded me of that scene from Changing Partners where all four of them were talking to each other in an intense whirlwind of emotions.

  • The scene where Callie struggles to dress up post-coma Sara, who is now in a wheelchair. I loved how intimate it was, even when it was the exact reverse of a first time: Instead of undressing Sara, Callie was putting her clothes on. It was a beautiful and poignant juxtaposition. I loved it.

  • tl;dr: MISSY MARAMARA YOU GUYS.

Anyway, the play wraps in the best way possible: A first kiss. While this is the kiss that eventually gives way to the hate crime, the play doesn’t go further to that. That it chooses to end here is perhaps a nod to hope, no matter how brief, and how we should hold onto it for as long as it lets us.


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xo,

K