Prelude To A Kiss
Los Angeles Times Theater Beat – September 19, 2003
by Reviewed By Anne Kelly-Saxenmeyer September 24, 2003
If, when you think of Pacific Resident Theatre, you think of past material like David Rabe’s A Question of Mercy, D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Everyday Life, and Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, of maniacally detailed scenic designs that insinuate decades of use, of worlds where the impediments are social, psychological, physical, and often insurmountable, then the company’s latest undertaking will surprise you. For while Craig Lucas’ 1980s seriocomic romance is grounded in an acute awareness of life’s inherent tragedy, it is a play of magical solutions, in which love conquers and wishes shift the earth. Oddly enough, if there is one thing lacking in director Stan Roth’s production (which is staged on a minimalist set designed by Andrew Evaschen), it’s a bigger dose of that old PRT simmering pathos to get at the deeper colors of Lucas’ fantastical tale. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy here, including fine performances–most notably that of the delightful Orson Bean. The play centers on Peter (Jason Huber) and Rita (Molly Schaffer), two world-weary singles who meet, fall immediately and unreservedly in love, and marry. On their wedding day an old stranger (Bean) stumbles upon their backyard reception and somehow switches souls with Rita. From this point the strongest moments of this production follow. While the initial scenes between Huber and Schaffer are charming but not irresistible and Huber’s early performance sometimes lacks urgency, the scenes between Huber and Bean–as Rita trapped in the body of the old man–are intensely intimate. Beyond the physical humor of their pairing they succeed in conveying a transcendent connection. Schaffer also excels after the soul-switch, portraying with care and obvious enjoyment the delight of an old man suddenly wearing a young and delicate physique. When Rita and the old man return to their respective bodies, one mourns for a moment the loss of Bean as Rita; his central monologue, delivered entirely with his head resting on Huber’s shoulder, is the highlight of the play. By the reunion, however, Huber and Schaffer’s chemistry feels newly invigorated, and the conclusion satisfies. Roth’s production is supported by a strong ensemble, featuring memorable turns by Tony Pasqualini and Karen Landry as Rita’s lovingly boisterous folks. While the no-fuss style of the staging may occasionally leave too much to the imagination (as when Huber and Schaffer have to pull off a post-lovemaking scene fully clothed), it allows for quick and easy movement, and Keith Endo’s lighting helps to fill in some of the blanks. It may not be love at first sight with this production, but, like any true romance, it only gets better.
Theater: Pacific Resident Theatre
Location: 705 1/5 Venice Blvd., Venice
Phone: (310) 822-8392
Starts: September 13, 2003
Ends: November 09, 2003
Evenings: Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m.
Presented by: Pacific Resident Theatre