Peter and Rita meet at a party, they date for a few months, they get married, and then “the [kiss] hits the fan.”
An old man that nobody knows has drifted into their wedding reception. After he has downed a few glasses of champagne, he asks for (and gets) permission to kiss the bride. That changes everything — Rita and the old man swap bodies. A bewildered Rita (in the old man’s body) stumbles out the door and disappears. The old man (in Rita’s body) goes with an increasingly confused Peter on a Jamaica honeymoon. Is a happy ending possible?
What will life be like when an old man is living inside Peter’s wife’s beautiful body? How will Peter react if-and-when he meets his wife living inside an old man’s (not beautiful) body? Will Peter and “the real Rita” ever be reunited? Without getting heavy-handed, the play suggests that we ponder the nature of true love and commitment.
Aaron Young has created a very likeable Peter. He’s nerdy and socially clumsy, but he’s quite earnest and totally honest — just exactly what Rita needs. Young seamlessly shifts from character-in-the-scene to storyteller, engaging the audience each time that he “breaks the Fourth Wall” and brings us up-to-date with narration and commentary, deftly creating a feeling that we have been drawn more deeply into Peter’s confidence and psyche.
Abby Jordan is every bit as charismatic in her portrayal of Rita. The character is an interesting mix of a pessimism, regarding the state-of-the-world, and an unbridled optimism, regarding the possibilities of her and Peter’s budding love. The chemistry that Young and Jordan create between their characters is so real that even the least empathetic audience member could not help but feel seriously stirred.
Speaking of empathy, we have seen Larry Evans in a variety of roles over the past 15 or so years, and his performance as “Old Man” is easily his career best. What we learn about the character later in the play is practically painted on Evans’ face from the moment that the Old Man makes his initial entrance. And Evans delivers two heart-wrenching, yet funny monologues that are well worth the price of the ticket.
A point to remember: Jordan and Evans each play both characters. This is where Bob Baird’s direction of their talents really shines. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself intrigued enough to want to see the show a second time, just to revisit the evidence you gathered of the first time (and to keep an eye out for more).
Chris Brown and Jean Jamison are cute as Rita’s parents — Dr. and Mrs. Boyle. Each one sports just the right amount of quirkiness. And Brown and Jamison know how to enact an “escalation” of even the slightest differences of opinion.
Blake Lee (as Peter’s friend Taylor) and an Ensemble playing secondary characters (a lively and flexible group that includes Lydia Gillis, Lisa Merritt, and Darthea Powden) add plenty of spice to the show. The opening scene (a party) is quite cute. Keep an eye out for a bartender that is a true gem. And the “extras” in the wedding and reception scenes (as well as the initial party) also shine.
Erin Irwin’s set makes imaginative use of TV monitors to create a sense of depth in the variety of scenes where the action takes place, and the choice of using a split stage made the transitions from scene-to-scene quick and effortless. Kudos are also in order to lighting designer Tori Shue for the cues that made changes in the “dark set” unobtrusive even during the times that a scene is playing in the “lighted set.” (Credit should also be given to the cast and crew who execute those changes.)
As always, Gayle Jordan has appropriately clothed the characters. Worth noting: the differences between the Old Man’s “fashion sense” and that of Rita — you’ll see what I mean.
From the Department of Picky-Picky:
- I don’t know if it would be possible (or even worth the effort), but there are a number of references to teeth and to dental floss that would be made funnier by creating the illusion that Evans’ character has no teeth.
- While text does appear on the TV monitors onstage to indicate the location of each scene, Captain Picky-Picky over here would STILL (for a variety of reasons) like that information also to appear in the program.
The Final Word:
The 1992 movie, directed by Norman René and starring Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin, is interesting and fun, but I heartily recommend this production of the 1988 play as head-and-shoulders more interesting, more fun (as well as intriguing and satisfying) entertainment. Even if you have seen the movie, make an effort to catch this play if you can!
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 2nd Durham, NC RDU on Stage mini-preview Lauren Van Hemert: https://rduonstage.com/event/forest-moon-prelude-to-a-kiss-2/.
The Forest Moon Theater presents PRELUDE TO A KISS at 3 p.m. Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 and 22, and 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre for the Arts, 405 S. Brooks St., Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587.
TICKETS: $15 ($13 students 18 and under and seniors 65+) in advance and $18 ($16 students 18 and under and seniors 65+) sold at the door.
BOX OFFICE: 919-435-2001, firstname.lastname@example.org, or https://www.etix.com/ticket/e/1010666/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-435-2001 or email@example.com.
SHOW: https://forestmoontheater.org/prelude-to-a-kiss/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/827528524358463/.
2019-20 SEASON: https://forestmoontheater.org/shows/.
PRESENTER: http://www.forestmoontheater.org/, https://www.facebook.com/forestmoontheater, https://twitter.com/FMTheater, and https://www.youtube.com/user/ForestMoonTheater?feature=mhee.
VENUE: https://www.wakeforestrencen.org/, https://www.facebook.com/WFRenaissanceCentre, and https://twitter.com/WFRenCen.
CONTENT ADVISORY: On its website, the Forest Moon Theater writes that this play “Contains some strong language and adult subject matter. Parental discretion is advised.”
Prelude to a Kiss (1988 Costa Mesa, CA, Off-Broadway, and 1990 Broadway romantic comedy and 1992 film): https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=4170 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://iobdb.com/Production/1217 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/prelude-to-a-kiss-7220 (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prelude_to_a_Kiss_(play) (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://www.dramatists.com/previews/4170.pdf”>http://www.dramatists.com/previews/4170.pdf (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Craig Lucas (playwright): http://iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/2099 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/craig-lucas-4924 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0524108/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Lucas (Wikipedia).
Bob Baird (Wake Forest, NC director): http://www.abouttheartists.com/artists/504925-bob-baird (AboutTheArtists bio) and https://www.facebook.com/robert.c.baird (Facebook page).
Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.