The Broadway revival of Prelude to a Kiss, the romantic comedy by Craig Lucas now being presented by Roundabout Theatre Company under Daniel Sullivan’s direction is quite pleasant. The play, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1990, made its world premiere Off-Broadway at the Circle Repertory turning Alec Baldwin into a star opposite Mary-Louise Parker and subsequently moved to Broadway where Timothy Hutton replaced Mr. Baldwin. In 1992 Mr. Lucas adapted the play into a successful feature film with Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin that many people still remember fondly.
Mr. Lucas is an award winning playwright/director, who has given us amongst others Small Tragedy, Reckless, and The Dying Gaul, and his plays often possess a quirky kind of charm that can be most beguiling. He wrote the book for the hit musical The Light in the Piazza a couple of seasons ago, and has penned several screenplays as well including The Secret Lives of Dentists and Longtime Companion.
In a flurry of short scenes at the beginning of Prelude to a Kiss we witness the whirlwind courtship of Peter and Rita (Annie Parisse and Alan Tudyk), a young couple that appear perfect for one another. We see how the odd parts of their respective personalities compliment one another culminating in their quick engagement. On the day of their storybook wedding a frail old man (John Mahoney) appears to crash the wedding and wanders amongst the quests. When he comes upon the bride and kisses her on the mouth a transmigration of souls occurs. The young bride’s soul moves into the old man’s dying body (he has been give a year to live) and the man wanders off. The sick old man’s soul moves into the vibrant body of the newlywed Rita, who departs with her new husband Peter for a two week honeymoon. Complications arise as Peter begins to realize that there is something mysteriously not right with Rita. Her lovable odd quirks seem to have suddenly disappeared and the two begin to bicker. Lucas uses this premise and Peter’s attempts to unravel the puzzling dilemma as the basis for a heartwarming love story.
Annie Parisse and Alan Tudyk are strong stage actors that have appeared in both film and television. Ms. Parisse is well known for her
recurring role as a beautiful district attorney on “Law & Order,” and Mr. Tudyk is probably best known for his part in the hit cult film “Serenity.” Although Mr. Tudyk has all American good looks, neither he nor Ms Parisse have the requisite charisma or onstage chemistry to make magic.
They apparently haven’t been helped to a great degree by Daniel Sullivan’s serviceable, but pedestrian direction. The charming idiosyncrasy necessary to lift the evening isn’t there. Yes, we have a good time and there are many fun moments, but we are never enchanted by or fully invested in the unfolding events.
John Mahoney is a Tony Award winning actor, who is best known to television audiences as Martin Crane for eleven years on the NBC hit sitcom “Frasier.” His performance here is a delight as he wanders about in a disoriented befuddled state. He and Mr. Tudyk turn in some wonderful work in a tender scene where the two men struggle to adjust to their awkward situation coming together for a loving kiss.
As Rita’s parents, who don’t seem to notice any change in their daughter, Robin Bartlett and James Rebhorn are very good. Ms. Bartlett brings a saucy quality to the mother and the two together make winning contributions that are memorable.
The minimalist set by Santo Loquasto that flows beautifully from one scene to next gives a nice focus to the evening.
gordin & christiano
Originally Published in Dan's Papers
Prelude to a Kiss opened on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, on March 8, 2007. Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at 212-719-1300, online at HYPERLINK "http://www.roundabouttheatre.org" www.roundabouttheatre.org or at the theatre box office.