Prelude To A Kiss Los Angeles Times Theater Beat

Prelude To A Kiss
Los Angeles Times Theater Beat – September 19, 2003

Craig Lucas’ wryly subversive “Prelude to a Kiss” parlays one of our most deep-seated relationship fears — that our partners might not turn out to be the people we thought they were — into a sweet romantic modern fable about appearance vs. inner beauty.

Stan Roth’s sparse staging for Pacific Resident Theatre’s revival pares the externals to suit the story’s simplicity and finds its way to the play’s considerable wit and charm — but only after a shaky start.

Lucas’ conceit is to make the metaphorically false identity of the beloved into a literal one when a seemingly innocent kiss between a nervous new bride (Molly Schaffer) and a mysterious old man (Orson Bean) unhappy with his life results in their exchanging bodies.

The veteran Bean mines comic and ironic possibilities galore when — possessed by the mind of the transplanted bride, Rita — he’s reunited with his “husband,” Peter (Jason Huber). Their brief domestic partnership while they try to figure out a way to reverse the switch provides the show’s biggest laughs as well as its most touching moments of true affection.

For her part, Schaffer skillfully navigates the violation of everything she initially established about Rita’s former character as well as the enthusiasm with which the old man’s spirit embraces its youthful new body — and the calculating lengths to which it will go to avoid relinquishing it.

Philip Brandes

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