MANILA -- Kissing, whether it's the first or something done repeatedly with someone special, makes the heart beat faster than normal. For Ed Lacson Jr., kissing or at least the word "kiss" is something that lasts for one hour and 30 minutes without intermission.
Though it's his 11th directorial job, Lacson is up to the challenge in the re-staging of Diana Son's "Stop Kiss," which was presented 16 years ago by New Voice Company.
"I was still in college back then, I think," Lacson told ABS-CBN News on Thursday, ahead of the July 12 opening of its limited eight-performance run at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit, Makati City.
The original lead actresses from 2003, Missy Maramara and Jenny Jamora, are returning but this time, they are switching roles.
Maramara is Callie, a traffic reporter in New York City, while Jamora is Sara, the newcomer in the Big Apple from St. Louis who accepts a teaching job in Bronx.
As Callie helps Sara in familiarizing herself in the city, their friendship leads to something more intimate. One late night while walking on the streets of West Village, they kiss. A bystander sees them and beat them. To avoid spoilers, we won't divulge what happens next.
"Stop Kiss" was written in 1998 and was staged at The Public Theater in New York City. There are references to the era dominated by the likes of Tower Records but the story isn't dated, as critics assured.
Charles Mcnulty of Los Angeles Times wrote in his review: 'What has kept "Stop Kiss" fresh is its inventive dramatic structure. The chronology of events is fractured in such a manner that the play isn't simply leading up to a horrific gay-bashing incident. It's about the subtler effects of living in a society in which intolerance is an unspoken fact."
Lacson said he got involved in the project because he was asked by Maramara to direct it. He's been stage manager, production designer and director in various plays staged at the Spotlight. "This is my 11th directorial job in professional theater and my third here," he said.
His last directorial job at Spotlight, the musical adaptation of the film "Himala," won him a Gawad Buhay award.
There was also his meticulous direction in 2015 of Glenn Sevilla Mas' much-awarded "Games People Play" and Eljay Castro Deldoc's "Si Maria Isabella at ang Guryon ng mga Tala,” at the Spotlight.
For Tanghalang Ateneo, he did the re-staging of Han Ong’s “Middle Finger” at the Black Box Theater in 2014, and Anna Ziegler's "Boy" in 2016.
In 2017, he directed the ascerbic, incendiary "Tao Po," a one-and-a-half hour four-part monologue by Mae Paner, with the Palanca-winning text written by Maynard Manansala. The play has been toured here and abroad.
"Honestly, I feel relaxed that I'm back to directing a straight play. Mas challenging 'pag student actors e. This one, professional actors, so less work for me. And the script is very straightforward," he said.
Why he's more at ease directing a straight play than musicals is because, he explained, it's the kind of theater he grew up in. "Besides, I'm not a musician. I don't sing. So isa pa 'yun," he said, laughing.
But there's still a challenge he's facing this time.
"Complicated siya ('Stop Kiss') like 'Middle Finger' in terms of flow from scene to scene. Very technical," he said.
So how is it directing Maramara and Jamora? Was it easier this time, just letting them do their thing on stage?
"It's good but not easy. It's a give and take naman, the actor and director," he said.
Also part of the cast are Tarek El Tayech as George, Gabe Mercado as Peter, Robbie Guevara as Detective Cole, Jay Valencia-Glorioso as Mrs. Winsley and J-mee Katanyag as Nurse.
With credible actors like them, we asked Lacson a few minutes before opening night, if he still gets nervous.
"Of course! I get anxious every show!"
"Stop Kiss" runs until July 21 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati.