BWW Review: Love PRELUDE TO A KISS at 2nd Story Theatre

With PRELUDE TO A KISS, the current offering at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, RI, playwright Craig Lucas came up with a realistically magical take on the Hollywood formula, boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl back. Apparently this theme predates even Hollywood: on the way home from the theater I listened to Monteverdi's seventeenth century opera, L'Orfeo, based on the even older story of Orpheus, in which boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, but oops. In this PRELUDE TO A KISS, which 2nd Story bills as a modern day fairy tale, elderly "wedding crasher" (F. William Oakes) kisses the bride, Rita, (Lara Hakeem) and their souls exchange, which turns a perfect wedding into a white-knuckled flight of doubt and regret. All this leaves the brave but bewildered groom, Peter, (David Sackel) to reverse the curse armed only with the power of love and, eventually, the assistance of the persona-switched bride and crasher. Got all that?

So what's to like about this production. First of all, the staging: PRELUDE is performed in the round with a minimum of set. 2nd Story even does without its customary oriental rug and ottoman! The dark blue floor is lit with patterns of light that look like falling leaves. It's patterns of light and darkness before a word is spoken. What director Ed Shea called on his actors to do was slowly pirouette as they said their lines; it was very affecting for a play about lovers in a kind of a spin.

Secondly, the performances were solid across the board, particularly Hakeem and Oakes, who take turns as the Old Man and Rita. In the first act, Hakeem makes Rita a charming, funny, and vivacious character; we can see why Peter falls for her. In the second, after the persona switch, she's not quite so likable, not quite herself, and it takes Peter (and the audience) a while to figure out why. Oakes is a revelation in the second act as Rita in the Old Man's body. He is so vulnerable, so lost, so still in love with Peter but so completely physically changed. Hakeem and Oakes could share an award for their portrayal of Rita! And poor Peter-he knows things are not right after the ceremony, but sticks with things until he can figure it out.

This is a clever and interesting love story, well acted and well staged. Go see it.

PRELUDE TO A KISS by Craig Lucas runs Upstage at 2nd Story Theatre until December 11th. Performances are at 7:30 Thursday (except Thanksgiving), Friday and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30. Running time is one hour and forty-five minutes with an intermission. If you are interested in talking about the play, a post play discussion is scheduled after the matinee November 27. Tickets are $35.00, $25.00 for anyone twenty-one or younger, and $20.00 for those who have the foresight to go on preview weekend (too late for this show). 2nd Story Theatre is located at 28 Market St., in Warren. The box office can be reached at 401. 247. 4200 or at The venue is handicap accessible with lovely accessible bathrooms on both floors.

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From This Author Larry O'Brien