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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006 08:00 am

A kiss is still a kiss

Theatreworks stages the comedic and unsettling drama Stop Kiss

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Don’t call Diana Son’s 1998 play Stop Kiss a political piece. It’s a love story. The first time Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson, assistant professor of theater at Illinois College, read the last scene of Stop Kiss, she gasped. Since that moment three years ago, she has wanted to direct the play. This Friday, she gets her chance when Illinois College’s Theatreworks’ stages the production. Son’s thought-provoking work centers on two women: Callie, a street-smart New York City traffic reporter, and Sara, a Midwestern girl moving to the big city to teach elementary school. An opposites attract-type friendship develops between the two straight women. The friendship slowly progresses to a strong attraction and then the kiss. The play revolves around the kiss with alternating timelines: the leadup to the kiss and the violent aftermath. “In doing some research, I came across an interview with the playwright, and, when asked, ‘Is this a political play?,’ her response was, ‘I wouldn’t call this a play about a hate crime or gay-bashing — I would call this play a love story,’ ” Thibodeaux-Thompson says. “I was so drawn to these characters,” Thibodeaux-Thompson says. “It’s a love story. When they discover this attraction for each other, they tap dance around it and each other for about half the play. I think we, as an audience, can relate to that.” Abi Wurdeman, a MacMurray College student, portrays Callie. The role is challenging, Thibodeaux-Thompson explains, because of the alternating timelines, shifting psychological moods, and scenes that start in the middle of a conversation. The character of Sara, played by IC student Juliane Johnson, also presents challenges because she evolves from a Midwesterner into a New Yorker. The play runs the gamut of emotions from lightheartedness to heartbreak, and Thibodeaux-Thompson confesses that she still gasps when she reads the final scene despite reading the play over and over since the first rehearsal in late December. “I hope the audience is moved in some way, whether it’s laughing or mortified,” Thibodeaux-Thompson says. “My hope for [them] is that they can relate and connect with the characters.”
Stop Kiss opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at the Sibert Theatre, in Illinois College’s McGaw Fine Arts Center. The run continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25; Thursday, March 2; and Friday, March 3. A matinee is presented at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 5. After each Friday performance, the cast and director will participate in discussion featuring two guest respondents: Beth Capo, assistant professor of English at IC, and the Rev. Betty Sue Sherrod of Jacksonville’s Congregational Church. For ticket information, call 217-245-3471.
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