Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Prelude to A Kiss"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"Prelude to A Kiss"

by Craig Lucas
Directed by Celia Couture

Set Design by Don Richardson
Lighting Design by Ken Lord
Set design by Don Richardson
Sound Design by Kent Larson, Joy Kendall
Properties by Judi Ryan, Evelyn Corsini
Costumes by Barbara Tyler, Loraine Stevens, Ellen Kazin, Betty Finnegan, Harriet Miller, Elizabeth Tustian
Stage Manager Judy Forgione
Production Manager Phyllis A. Uloth

Rita.....................Angela Rose Blackman
Peter....................................Tom Lawlor
Old Man................................Bob Runck
Taylor..........................David Giagrando
Mrs. Boyle................................Pat Price
Dr. Boyle...............................Ron Brunn
Aunt Dorothy..................Kathrym Portle
Uncle Fred.....................Ron Wackowski
Leah..............................Elizabeth Tustian
Tom/Ensemble................Michael Corbett
Jamaican Waiter/Ensemble....Mark Bailey
Minister/Ensemble..........Ted MacGovern
Ensemble
Susan Hauser, Katherine Johnson, Sonja Mai

This may turn out to be more of a Cricket's Notebook entry than a review. On one hand, I know a lot more about this production than I normally would as a spectator or as a reviewer, and that always taints objectivity. Second, events OFF-stage make this a crossroads production for this company, as well as making it almost a classic case-study of the state of community theatres in this area.
SO, let me try to do a simple, objective review here, and maybe append this review to a Notebook entry later:

In "Prelude to A Kiss" Craig Lucas wrote two plays: his second-act fantasy depends on a joyously, lusciously hip re-creation of the young sex-at-first-sight '80s, with sobering subtexts juxtaposing youth with death and age. The play desperately wants to be a film --- it has a series of short, compressed scenes that jump from place to place, expecting the camera to fill in completely new backgrounds every time. Director Celia Couture solves the problem brilliantly: she scraps any possibility of a dozen un-wrestlable sets, using a bed, a bar, a sofa, and a wall with record-player and minifridge, so she can take full advantage of the multilevel set's flexibility. (Ken Lord's lighting expertly moves action from place to place; but Set Designer Don Richardson's name didn't make the program.) She creates the ambience of every scene not with sets, but with people: a sextet of excellent actors in several quick-change costumes (many of them with no lines whatever) serve to swell the scenes, creating a disco, a wedding, or the beaches of Jamaica by simply becoming the real people in the backgrounds.

The center of the play, and the focus of the entire first act, is the pair of lovers played by Tom Lawlor and Angela Rose Blackman. Rita is spontaneity personified; she answers "yes" to Peter's "Will you marry me?" at their very first meeting, and though he is thoughtful enough to wonder if she's serious, she really is. The disco-bar-bedroom-bridal-gown-honeymoon rollercoaster of eager enthusiasm is contrasted with comic confrontations with Rita's parents (Pat Price and Ron Brinn) and her aunt and uncle (Kathryn Portle and Ron Wackowski), where generational strains are complicated by worry about how much the elders do/should know of the details of modern romance. Pivotal in act one is Peter's confessor and eventual best-man, expertly played by David Giargrando as participant, commentator, and leader of the ensemble.

Act two, turns on the totally-out-of-left-field character of The Old Man (Bob Runck). No review should say anything of the rather improbable details here, but part of the logic of the act depends on an inevitable difference between courtship and marriage that initially seems to account for surprising shifts in character. Peter serves as a somewhat mildly detached narrator through act one, in which Rita's flamboyant enthusiasm dominates, but it is his growing awareness of a not quite believable problem that dominates act two. Lawlor, Blackman and Runck work hard together trying to make playwright Lucas' fantasy wend its way, thankfully, to a happy ending.

The pair of lovers here are played by relative newcomers to the area with youthful enthusiasm. When Blackman smiles, it is with her whole body; when Lawlor freaks, it is equally, physically total. But they seem to float like the bubbly foam risen to the top of the Ensemble around them, in contrast with the near-caricatures of their elders. All in all, a fascinating production.

Love,
===Anon.


"Prelude to A Kiss" (8 - 17 June)
ARLINGTON FRIENDS OF THE DRAMA
22 Academy Street, ARLINGTON
1(781-646-5922


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