Oh, how my love song gently cries, for the tenderness within your eyes. My love is a prelude that never dies, my prelude to a kiss…
These words, from a song by Duke Ellington, are the inspiration for the play currently running at Town and Country Players. PRELUDE TO A KISS tells the story of Peter and Rita (Vincent Pileggi and Roseann Enwright), a couple who meet at a cocktail party, fall in love, and marry. At their reception, Rita is kissed by a strange old man (Colin Jenei) and they magically switch bodies. After discovering the switch, Peter must keep his love for Rita alive in spite of the change while he tries to find a way to get things back to normal.
The playwright, Craig Lucas, is openly gay and when it debuted in 1990 the play was widely believed to be a metaphor for the effect AIDS has on gay couples, where one partner finds themselves committed to someone who has become old and frail before their time. With time, the play addresses the broader topics of keeping love alive as couples evolve and change.
The performance I attended had an unfortunate issue with lighting which affected the performance, so I honestly can’t address the overall quality of the production itself. However, it appears that this production was not quite ready to open. The chemistry between the young couple wasn’t there…there was no growth in the relationship through the first few scenes, and in fact the couple did not touch each other until Peter proposed. There was an awkwardness between Peter and Rita that just never resolved itself. In addition, there were numerous times when it seemed that the actors forgot whose line it was, with many lines overlapping in a manner that was not intended. The distractions of working on a darkened (and eventually black) stage certainly did not help the actors’ concentration, so this may correct itself quickly.
The direction of the play confused me. Again, the technical issues didn’t help, but when the old man kissed Rita, there was no reaction from either actor to indicate anything significant happening, and the chatter from the supporting cast obscured many of the lines that would have helped the audience understand what was happening. Even after the technical issues were corrected, when the switch back occurred there was nothing noticeable (aside from a thunder clap) to indicate something had happened. Other instances of a lack of setup indicated that the actors weren’t really helped with the play development…emotional changes were abrupt with no noticeable motivation as well as other illogical actions and reactions.
To be fair, with the technical issues the production had to endure on opening night, I may not have seen a representative production of the play. However, I can only report on what I saw. The opening night audience was much more forgiving of the shortcomings than I, and greeted the cast with enthusiastic applause at the end. Hopefully, with a night in front of a live audience and their technical issues resolved, this production may grow and evolve, even as the main couple’s relationship should and does.
PRELUDE TO A KISS
Written by Craig Lucas
Directed by Jonathan Knapp
September 21, 22, 28, 29, October 5, 6 at 8 PM
September 23, 30 at 3 PM
Town and Country Players
4158 York Road