August 5, 2003

 

Prelude to a Kiss

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

special to the Observer

As portrayed by Off Tryon Theatre Company, Prelude to a Kiss, is an odd little play. It has elements of a romantic comedy, hints of the macabre, and tiresome moments of inevitability.

Written by Craig Lucas, Prelude to a Kiss was performed on Broadway in 1990 and was nominated for two Tony Awards. The plot dances around many questions. What makes people fall in love? How do you really know a person? And how much do appearances matter?

Peter is a young man who escaped from an unloving family to become a hopeful, balanced grown-up. He is immediately attracted to Rita, an attractive bartender with socialist leanings who was raised by loving parents in a New York City suburb.

Rita sees life as a dangerous affair. She fears bringing children into the world as much as she fears showing her portfolio. She wears her youth like a coat of armor; because she doesn’t let many people get close to her, she doesn’t have the experience to make insightful proclamations about the meaning of life.

The two embark on a whirlwind romance that ends at the altar. Moments after the ceremony Rita is approached by an old man who kisses her. Lightening strikes, and the next thing you know, no one is the same. The plot hinges on surprise, which has been largely obliterated due to a large screen production of this play. Enough said.

Jeremy Cartee is endearing as Peter, and prior to marriage, Kristen Jones’ portrayal of Rita is light handed and charming. Indeed, her pessimistic streak is so underplayed that the ensuing plot twist is more mysterious than it should be. Phil Taylor plays the old man and is in turn darling and uninvolved in his role.

Hugh Loomis is wonderful in a cameo role as Rita’s father, Dr. Boyle. He has superb comic timing, and his scenes with his over-the-top wife, played by Meg Wood, are the show’s best.

Director Jonathan M. Ewart makes strange set choices that add an ominous tone to the production. The walls are painted steel gray. Sparse props make multiple locations possible in many of the play’s short, choppy scenes. Rita’s apartment is just a couch. Their romance is conducted on just a bench. Jamaica is just two low-slung beach chairs. Peter’s costume changes are facilitated by a man who hands him shirts on stage.

Once the romance is mysteriously interrupted, long deadly silences almost kill the second half. A swift order to pick up the pace might release some of the charm that was so promising in the beginning of the play.

Lynn Trenning, August 5, 2003

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