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Unexpected romance, shocking violence are at the core of ‘Stop Kiss’

Muhlenberg College mainstage production
opening Feb. 22, breaks the ‘lesbian play’ mold

Allentown, Pa. (Feb. 10, 2012) — Yes, the two lead characters in Diana Son’s play “Stop Kiss”—opening Feb. 22 on the Muhlenberg College mainstage—are women, and yes they fall in love. And yes, says director Roxy Schoenfeld, the play is deeply concerned with issues that are near and dear to the gay and lesbian community.

Just don’t call it a “lesbian play.”

Schoenfeld, a senior theatre major at Muhlenberg, directs the production running Feb. 22-26 in Muhlenberg’s intimate Studio Theatre — a rare honor for an undergraduate student at the country’s top-rated theater program.

An Off-Broadway style play by Diana Son, “Stop Kiss” tells the story of two women who meet, hit it off, and to their great surprise, find themselves falling in love. But Schoenfeld insists that to call it a “lesbian play” would be at best an oversimplification — and may not really even be accurate.

“It’s not that easily defined,” Schoenfeld says. “The characters never come to the point of defining themselves, and it’s possible they never would. All we really know is that they are two people who have fallen in love, and who have to struggle because of it.”

“Stop Kiss” starts the women’s story from both ends — an awkward meeting over cat-sitting arrangements at one end, the aftermath of a brutal attack at the other — and then converges on a central moment: a giddy first kiss on a city street at 3 a.m. The play is a heartbreaking, tenderly comic, sometimes vicious reflection on the pain that can come from trying to be who we really are.

“On the one hand, it’s a really beautiful story of blossoming love,” Schoenfeld says. “And on the other, there’s the gripping reality that queer couples face dangers and challenges that the rest of us just don’t.”

The back-and-forth structure of the play presented Schoenfeld and her company with a storytelling challenge: how to keep the play moving while also keeping it realistic and vivid. The solution is a turntable created by scenic designer Curtis Dretsch, allowing the production to transition quickly among a variety of settings. At any rate, that’s part of the solution.

“That zig-zagging has been the play’s greatest challenge, in acting, staging, lighting, costumes, everything,” Schoenfeld says. “We’ve really had to come together to make sure the story keeps its momentum.”

Schoenfeld says that the social issues of the play are of vital importance to her and her cast. Their way of getting at those issues, however, is not to climb up on a soapbox, but to tell the characters’ story: finding a connection, finding themselves, struggling with adversity.

“It’s about social justice. It’s about violence. But it’s also about love,” she says. “I think that’s what will give the play a universal appeal.”

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department is the top-rated college performance program in the country, according to the Princeton Review’s 2012 survey report. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa, offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.

“Stop Kiss” runs Feb. 22-26. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15; patrons 17 and under, $8; students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges, $7. For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $15. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew Street, Allentown. The production is intended for mature audiences.

Tickets and information: 484-664-3333 or muhlenberg.edu/theatre.