Kathmandu: Under the red and pink light, Callie Pax is dancing to the funky beats of ‘Best of my love’ by The Emotions. While she dances, Callie (Ranjana Bhattarai) is also arranging the stuff in her spacious apartment. Suddenly, a telephone bell rings, interrupting her rhythm. It happens to be a call from her boyfriend, Geroge (Gaurav Bista). Soon as the call ends, there’s another ring, this time the doorbell. It turns out it is Sara (Samapika Gautam), a friend of a friend, who rang the doorbell; she wants Callie to look after her cat. It’s the first time they meet each other.
Callie is a radio traffic reporter, who is not happy enough with her job, whereas Sara, who moved to New York from a small town, is a happy and proud third-grade teacher.
Written by the Asian American writer Diana Son, the play “Stop Kiss” is currently being staged at Shilpee Theatre in Kathmandu, produced by One World Theatre. The play is set in New York in the nineties and the local producers haven’t bothered to tinker with its setting or names. It tells the story of the hardship two girls endure after falling in love with each other.
Since their meet-cute, Callie and Sara become closer to each other and start meeting regularly. During their meetings, they talk about their jobs, families, and boyfriends. They soon become drinking buddies not long before they realize they have fallen in love with each other.
One day, when they celebrate their love, kissing each other for the first time, a tragic incident occurs. They becomes the victims of gay-bashing. They go through brutal hate attacks. Sara is beaten into a coma, while Callie sustains bruises.
These are incidents that are all too common in Nepal. According to a study by Mitini Nepal, 38 percent of lesbians and 65 percent of transgenders are reported to face violence in Nepal.
Directed by Loonibha Tuladhar and Co-directed by Kavita Srinivasan, “Stop Kiss” shows how difficult it is for the same-sex couples to open up about their relationship.
After the tragic incident, Callie is interrogated by Detective Cole (Sushrut Acharya). During the interrogation, she feels uncomfortable saying that they were kissing each other when the brutal incident occurred, hesitating to open up about their relationship. The scene of the interrogation could relate to many same-sex couples who fear to tell about their relationship due to backlash that they might receive from society.
The scene of the interrogation could relate to many same-sex couples who fear to tell about their relationship due to backlash that they might receive from society.
The story is staged out of chronological order: scenes alternate between flashbacks (before the assault) and the present (after the assault). The assault itself, however, is not shown on stage. It is shown through an animated video. The play also has some explicit language but it doesn’t sound irrelevant or awkward.
There are a lot of shifts between the scenes of flashback and present which might strike some viewers as disorienting. It can interrupt the concentration that you invest in one of those scenes. But on the other hand, those shifts have also given the play an air of dramatic suspense.
Almost all of the actors shine in this play. It should be noted that akin to the two protagonists of the play, other actors Gaurav Bista, Loonibha Tuladhar, Sushrut Acharya, Bruno Deceukelier and Anahita Sarabhai all have done an exceptional job in their performance. They invest empathy in their characters, and in turn, inviting the viewers to do the same.
The staging of Stop Kiss started marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the start of the United Nation’s 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Plays like this that are told with empathy and warmth for its subjects are essential to achieve the goals of those campaigns. For a society that doesn’t discriminates anybody on the basis of their gender and sexual orientation.
The play will run through December 4 at 5:30 pm everyday in Shilpee Theatre, Battisputali. There will be an additional show on Saturday at 1:30 pm.