That old black magic

Prelude to a Kiss

By Craig Lucas
Directed by Sarah Gurfield
Boomerang Theatre Company
Actor's Playground
412 8th Avenue (at 31st Street) 2nd fl. (501-4069)
Equity showcase (closes Oct. 6)
Review by Doug DeVita

Craig Lucas's Prelude to a Kiss, a moderately successful Broadway hit that was turned into a moderately successful Hollywood film, is an intriguing look into the soul -- couched in palatable, Broadway-comedy standards. That it works at all is a testament to Lucas's whimsical, if twisted, imagination and his way with dialog, which manages to be both literate and loony all at once.

Peter meets Rita, they fall in love, marry, and BANG: Rita becomes a different person. Literally. A strange Old Man wanders into their wedding, kisses Rita, and in the process they exchange bodies. The situations that follow are pure sitcom, but Lucas adroitly throws in some resonating points about life, love, and the person under the skin that gives the fluff some heft.

Boomerang Theatre's revival, under the rock-solid direction of Sarah Gurfield, might not have been the perfect production, but its best moments were pure bliss as concept, staging, and performances all melded into one beautiful, theatrical whole. Her handling of the three leads was exquisite: it was in the small, two- or three-character scenes that the production sparkled with an intimate glow.

Peter Picard, as the initially besotted and increasingly bewildered Peter, drove the production -- his performance was nearly flawless and set the standard for the rest of the cast to follow, which they did with charm and aplomb. Kate Ross as Rita, Ed Schultz as the Old Man and Ian Pfister as Peter's friend Taylor were all superb; Paula J. Riley had some lovely moments (particularly in the second act) as Rita's suburban mother; and Linda Nelson created a very touching, if brief, portrait of the Old Man's concerned daughter.

Gurfield was ham-strung by WT McRae's unit set for all three Boomerang productions this season (see reviews of Amphitryon or Monster Tales for a more detailed description); its greige stone walls were just too foreboding for Lucas's imaginative, lightweight fairy-tale: they just got in the way of the tone and manner Gurfield and crew worked so hard to convey, to say nothing of forcing some very awkward blocking and scene changes. It might have been better to have just covered it with blacks and performed the piece with the sophisticated simplicity that was brought to the play itself. Sidney Shannon's costumes fit the play and the characters; Sarah Jakubasz's white-and-gold lighting did the job admirably; Ernie Rich's sound design was arguably the most effective element -- it set time, place, and mood faster and better than any of the physical properties of the production did. Whether characters were walking along a riverside, in a bar or party, or particularly in the more magical instances of transference, Rich's contributions supported Gurfield's vision, and therefore the enchantment of its best moments.

(Also featuring Bill Fairbairn, Jack Garrett, Nora Hummel, and Michael Craig Patterson.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Sets: 0
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1/2

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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita