When a kiss isn’t just a kiss
Kudos to the gang at 2nd Story Theatre for recognizing that “What the world needs now is love sweet love” and for providing it in their lovely production.by Dave Christner, Newport Mercury
Fairy tales in modernity are much more likely to start out with something like “I met this girl in a bar” than with the more traditional “Once upon a time.” But once the adventure begins, there is little doubt that in one way or another, the end will come with the comforting words: “And they lived happily ever after.”
Of course those involved in the story have to go through all kinds of hell before they reach the nirvana of “happily ever after.” That’s the magic of storytelling. Whether a story is told in the oral tradition, copied on papyrus, acted out on stage, told through moving pictures or sent into space in a digital format, it is the struggle that makes the story vital, not to mention, interesting. In fairy tales as in life, nothing is ever easy; conflict is at the heart of every good tale, fairy or not.
In Craig Lucas’ “Prelude to a Kiss,” running through Dec. 11 at Warren’s 2nd Story Theatre, the conflict takes place in the emotional realm, but it is no less perilous to young lovers and soulmates Rita (Lara Hakeem) and Peter (David Sackal) than if it was a fire-breathing dragon with a taste for human flesh.
Rita and Peter are the quintessential ideal couple, and they are played exquisitely by Hakeem and Sackal. You’d love to have them move in next door because it would make you feel so good to see a young couple so much in love. The two meet in a bar when the play opens, fall instantly and insanely in love and head for the matrimonial altar before one season ends and another begins.
At the wedding, the “you know what” hits the proverbial rotating object in the ceiling when an old man, played lovingly by F. William Oakes, inexplicably asks to kiss the bride and Rita, just as inexplicably, agrees to let him lay one on her. When he does — this is where you really have to suspend your disbelief — the old man and Rita exchange souls. That’s right. They swap souls. Just like that, his persona is suddenly embedded her beautiful body and her liberal, idealistic soul is locked into the body of a rickety old man.
Rita and the old man recognize immediately what has happened, but don’t know what the hell, if anything, they can do about it. The family and friends of the two lost souls don’t know what has happened right away, but eventually realize something is terribly wrong. They just don’t know what, nor do they know what to do about it.
Director Ed Shea chose to do the play in the round on what is essentially an empty set designed by Max Ponticelli. There are rotating doors on two of the three stage entrances/exits, but nothing in the way of furniture or props. Characters are sitting and, among other things, reclining in the middle of the floor. Costumes designed by Ron Cesario’s are nothing out of the ordinary either; they are simply functional and realistic. The extravagant fairy tale world of Disney and the Brothers Grimm is decidedly absent from Shea’s interpretation of this fairy tale. However, what the production lacks (by design) in substance is more than made up for by the performances of Hakeem, Sackal and Oakes in the principal roles.
Hakeem and Sackal dazzle you with the exuberance and commitment of their love as they struggle to make some sense of the cruel hand fate has dealt them. And Oakes has never been better than as an old man, who through a retrospective examination of his life, learns the true meaning of living.
Kudos to the gang at 2nd Story Theatre for recognizing that “What the world needs now is love sweet love” and for providing it in their lovely production.