Jul 15, 2019

Happening right now at the Power Mac Center Spotlight Theater is Stop Kiss, a play about two women falling in love staged with a small cast and an extremely limited run time (two weekends!) that, by virtue of its smallness, you’ll probably end up missing. Which is a shame, because it’s one of the best things to come out of Philippine theater this year.

“It’s my goddamned mediocre little right to be free,” says an exasperated Felice in the 1999 historical drama Aimée & Jaguar, a true-to-life love story about, Felice, a Jewish woman, and Lilly, a Nazi officer’s wife. It ends just about the same way you’d expect. But despite its tragic nature, watching it felt like a win. Unlike other representations of queer women tragedy *cough* Lost and Delirious *cough*, it didn’t feel like the lesbian was being punished for the supreme transgression of loving another woman. The worst form of tragedy struck them, but Felice and Lilly were real and lived and died and won; you’re watching their story, aren’t you?

In an earlier scene, Missy Maramara’s Callie and Jenny Jamora’s Sara are seen drinking and playing cards inside Callie’s hot pink apartment

Watching Stop Kiss feels the same way. The crux of the nonlinear story is this: Callie, a jaded traffic reporter, and Sara, a starry-eyed school teacher, fall in love and kiss amid the backdrop of a sparkling New York City. Immediately after, they are beaten up in a vicious (thankfully offscreen) hate crime which gives Callie a cracked rib and lands Sara in the hospital. In a time where queer characters are finally (finally!) earning their happy endings in media after a century of Bury Your Gays, it’s easy to be skeptical of a plot like that. Haven’t we had enough trauma?

But that’s precisely the point. At its core, Stop Kiss is about two different stories: One is a New York love story. The other is a blunt and eviscerating look into the aftermath of a hate crime. The two happen back and forth, separated only by one black pillar that moves across the stage at the end of every scene to signal a shift in the story (which is an amazing utilization of set design). The former is pure magic; set almost entirely in a hot pink room, we see Missy Maramara’s Callie and Jenny Jamora’s Sara delicately and tentatively fall in love. The latter is devastating—so not to give everything away, I’ll just say that almost every time the black pillar jerked back, I was in tears. “I’m getting whiplash,” my friend whispered to me by the end of Act One.

A detective, frenetically played by Robbie Guevara, goads Callie into revealing everything that happened during the hate crime

What this does is immediately pull the scenes in contention with each other. Love story. Hate crime. Love story. Hate crime. Essentially, it becomes a debate between love versus hate, of the love stories and happy endings we don’t get to see, and the hate crimes and tragedies we see way too often. And the play only starts becoming harmonious at the end when one side starts to prevail.

Sara, in nervous jitters, recounts a story to Callie and Gabriel (played by Tarek El Tayech), Callie’s eternally disheveled on-again off-again FWB who also happens to be the only good straight male in the play

“Lately, I feel like there’s something worth winning,” Callie words breathlessly to Sara somewhere in Act Two. Queer stories need to win. Big, dramatic depictions of messy relationships that work or don’t need to win. Callie and Sara kissing—“a big, fat, wet one. Square on the lips. Nothing confusing…Not between friends. Not a friendly kiss”—need to win.

For a moment, they do.

Callie and Sara tenderly sleep next to each other

Stop Kiss is a joint production by Positive Space, MusicArtes, and New Voice Company directed by theater wunderkid Ed Lacson, Jr. and starring Missy Maramara and Jenny Jamora. Staged at the Power Mac Center Spotlight, it has 8 p.m. shows on Jul. 12, 13, 19, and 20, as well as 3 p.m. shows on 13, 14, 20, and 21. Tickets are available through this link or through here.


Featured photo courtesy of Stop Kiss Manila

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TAGS: ed lacson jr. jenny jamora lgbtqa+ representation missy maramara nolisoli.ph stop kiss