‘Stop Kiss’ runs throughout December at The Studio Theatre

The Studio Theatre Tierra del Sol in The Villages showcases thought-provoking plays and they’re doing it once more with “Stop Kiss” by Diana Son, a play that examines how two people’s lives irrevocably changes when they unexpectedly fall in love.

Mary Ellen Moreno (Callie) and Sarah French (Sara) shine in their Villages debut. Callie, a traffic reporter, feels trapped in her job, and has a so-so relationship with her ex-boyfriend, occasional sex partner, George (Damany Omar Riely), while Sara fled St. Louis for a teaching job in the Bronx, and to escape the smothering of boyfriend Peter (Sean William Kelly).

Callie and Sara first connect over Callie boarding Sara’s cat. They become fast friends, followed by a growing sexual attraction for each other. Their romance blossoms after their first kiss, and then their world is turned upside down when tragedy strikes.

Scenes of Callie and Sara’s lives before and after the brutal hate crime is what the audience sees in “First Kiss,” and Studio Theatre does an incredible job with their creative set design to showcase inside and outside the pair’s New York City apartment, along with video images of the city, walkers, the subway. There’s also separate stage scenes of Callie at the police department being interrogated by Detective Cole (Joe Llorens), and Sara in her hospital room being cared for by her nurse (Alyson Johnson).

The set design alone makes this play worth seeing, so kudos to the crew that was involved in making it a success. Hint: Other community theaters could probably gleam some wonderful staging ideas from seeing the play, too.

“Stop Kiss” also has some stellar acting, including Peter displaying clueless frustration and possessiveness in questioning Callie about her relationship with Sara, which leads to Callie to realizing Sara’s family blames her for the attack. They look at her, she says, “like I’m a dirty old man.”

“Stop Kiss” made its premier in 1998 at the Public Theater in New York City and became the longest running play since “A Chorus Line,” according to the playbill.

The play’s author, Diana Son, has taught playwriting at New York University’s Department of Dramatic Writing and the Yale School of Drama. She also has been a writer/producer for several series, including “American Crime,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Blue Bloods,” The 2-2,” and “The West Wing.”

“Stop Kiss” runs through Dec. 30 at The Studio Theatre Tierra del Sol, 806 San Marino Drive, The Villages. Showtime is 7 p.m. every night, except Mondays and Christmas Day. Tickets are $35 and available at all box office locations in The Villages, or by calling 352-751-7799.