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Theater review: 'Stop Kiss' at Theatre Theater

July 16, 2009 |  5:00 pm

StopKiss The unspoken currents that swerve across "Stop Kiss" at Theatre Theater almost outstrip the actions they generate. Diana Son's delicate 1998 dramedy about a nascent romance between two women in New York receives an admirable, albeit still gelling, L.A. premiere by Rogue Machine.

Distracted traffic radio reporter Callie (Deborah Puette) is a 12-year Manhattan veteran when she meets Midwestern émigré Sara (Kristina Harrison). Against the wishes of her parents and boyfriend, Sara has taken a fellowship to teach third-graders in the Bronx but needs to house her cat.

Their initial encounter flirts with sitcom while hinting at greater depths. The playwright then flashes forward, to the aftermath of a random act of violence that left Sara in a coma and Callie guilt-ridden and disconsolate. Thereafter, "Stop Kiss" pendulum-swings across time, pitting the pair's gravitational pull toward each other against the outcome of their culminating moment.

Puette and Harrison do imposing work, well attuned to each other's strengths. Christian Anderson and Justin Okin are solid as their respective men. Inger Tudor is a bit more effortless as a Caribbean nurse than as the crime's eyewitness. Jeorge Watson valiantly handles the thankless role of police detective.

Son's script is quietly inventive and wholly sincere, but the folded-time structure creates some nuance gaps in Elina de Santos and Matthew Elkins' intelligent staging. Not all of the emotional hairpin turns feel consistent, and the vignette-laden structure takes a toll on our involvement. Such inequities seem likely to tighten as this worthy effort enters its repertory run with "Treefall" next month.

-- David C. Nichols

"Stop Kiss," Rogue Machine at Theatre Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays, through July 26. Starting Aug. 2, runs in repertory with "Treefall," see www.roguemachinetheatre.com for schedule. Ends Aug. 23. Adult audiences. $25. (323) 960-7774. Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Kristina Harrison and Deborah Puette. Credit: John Flynn.

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