Thoughts & Musings

Spirit of life and love shines in Warren’s 2nd Story Theatre’s ‘Prelude to a Kiss’

This production of “Prelude to a Kiss” is a beautifully staged, sentimental two-hour respite from anything trying or stressful in the world.

by Susan McDonald, Providence Journal
  • 22nd November 201622/11/16
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There should always be space in our lives for a fairy tale, even one that gets very dark in the middle, because there is such joy in a happy ending.

There is a fairy tale unfolding at 2nd Story Theatre these days as the company draws its fall series to a close with Craig Lucas’ “Prelude to a Kiss.” Company Artistic Director and CEO Ed Shea compares the play’s premise to a line from a Galway Kinnell poem that reads, “Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”

In the case of “Prelude,” it is to reacquaint us all with the spirit of life and love. Reteaching us is Lucas in writing of the whirlwind love affair of Rita and Peter, who marry just six weeks after meeting. On their wedding day, a mysterious old man shows up and starts to wish the couple well before asking to kiss the bride. With one kiss, the lives of the three are changed as the old man’s spirit changes places with Rita’s.

Off on their honeymoon in Jamaica, Peter notices that his socialist-leaning, Dewar’s-swilling bartender wife seems different. She isn’t drinking, she talks about having children when she had been adamantly opposed to bringing new life into today’s world, and she doesn’t seem to mind the stark social and racial inequalities that are evident in the poor island nation.

When the couple returns, the old man in Rita’s body knows that Peter is suspicious and she feigns marital discord to return to her parents’ home. A chance meeting with the old man, whose body is inhabited by Rita, helps Peter draw the situation to a head.

Shea steps into the director’s seat for “Prelude” and delivers a light, heart-warming production full of jokes and poignant moments between the cast. He skillfully uses the stage and has his actors pivot regularly so the action is visible from all corners of the theater in the round. One such effective moment is the wedding scene, in which Peter and Rita slowly turn as they recite their vows. There is truly no bad seat as a result.

Also clever is the use of the large, wall-sized revolving doors on either side of the stage. They start in a perpendicular position but are pushed around by the actors periodically to simulate walking down hallways or using urinals.

The cast is also well-chosen. Lara Hakeem is a delightful Rita, giving a realistic impression of someone mesmerized and stunned after the kiss transforms her life. David Sackal is a likable Peter. And F. William Oakes is a wonderful old man. The scene in which he, as Rita, is commiserating with Peter about how to fix the situation is wonderful. Oakes is deliciously moon-eyed as he watches the other man.

This production of “Prelude to a Kiss” is a beautifully staged, sentimental two-hour respite from anything trying or stressful in the world.

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