Trading places

The aftermath of the Prelude
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  February 20, 2008
insidetheater_preludetoakis
LOVE CONQUERS ALL: But what about a soul swap?

Prelude to a Kiss |  by Craig Lucas | Directed by Robert Fish | Produced by Good Theater | at the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center | through March 9 | 207.885.5883
By the cumulative serendipities of sleeplessness, spaetzle, and Molson, young Peter (Brian Chamberlain) and Rita (Tess Van Horn) find love in New York City. Immediately. Abidingly. From the moment they meet, at a party thrown by Rita’s neighbor Taylor (Christopher Reilling), their course is set for swift, witty, irresistible courtship. Six weeks later, marriage seems the next logical step. So far, so good. But almost as soon as they exchange vows, man and wife find that something has happened, something that will make their honeymoon in Jamaica a real drag: Rita is no longer the same person.

It’s a literal transformation: When a mysterious old wedding-crasher (Chris Horton) gives the bride a kiss, cosmic forces orchestrate an exchange of their souls. So when Rita’s body starts doing out-of-character things, like calling Peter “puppy-puppy” and refusing drinks, her new husband is, to say the least, alarmed. Once he figures it out, sexual frustrations are only the beginning of the practical and allegorical dilemmas of Craig Lucas’s Prelude to a Kiss, in a warm and snappy production by the Good Theater, directed by Robert Fish.

At the heart of the play is the visceral chemistry between Rita and Peter, and Fish has cast it marvelously. In the hands of Van Horn and Chamberlain, their connection is not just convincing, but rather delightful. New lovers always run the risk of annoying us with their clichés and giddiness, but this pairing avoids that trap with plenty of humor and irony. When Peter, narrating the beginning of courtship, announces that “the spell was cast,” his mouth has a wonderfully wry set to it — he’s sincere, but also mercifully aware of how cheesy he sounds.

That’s typical of Chamberlain’s fine, funny, and intelligent performance opposite Van Horn, who is sharp and simply radiant. Also commendable is how true-to-life and recognizable these two well-paired actors make the couple’s (very compressed) progression into love. Gazes lengthen and evolve; a lean turns to an impulsive clutch at an arm, and then to a familiar hold. They get the tones and gestures just right.

After the cosmic switcheroo, Van Horn has another tough job: to portray the personality and mannerisms of an old man inhabiting an unfamiliar young female body. But good directing and instincts make it a remarkably plausible proposition. She splays her legs, slumps, gives Peter blunt, meaty pats on the shoulder, shuffles around uncertainly. The change in Horton, once his old man is inhabited by Rita, is less overt, less physical. Although Horton employs a few distinctly feminine gestures (excitedly pushing shoulders back and chest out; sitting with hands on tight-pressed knees), we hear Rita, in cadences and intonation, more than see her. Given the limitations of the aged body she’s inside, that makes a certain sense, but it would still be nice to get a little more physicality from Horton, particularly in the scene when the two finally confront each other.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MEGAN GRUMBLING
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   THE MOST BRUTAL SPORT  |  July 11, 2014
    Ballet is not for pussies.
  •   DISTILLED PORTRAIT  |  July 10, 2014
    The greatest love of the show’s title—for both Chamberlain and its audience—remains the war itself.
  •   MAKE/BELIEVE  |  June 25, 2014
    Portland is already in the thick of the PortFringe 2014, the city’s third annual festival of eclectic, wide-ranging theater from here and afar. This year’s festival of 50 shows runs June 24-29 at six venues — Empire, Geno’s, Mayo Street Arts, SPACE Gallery, and the Portland Stage Studio Theater and Storefront — and includes a first-ever Family Fringe program.
  •   AS WE LIKE IT  |  June 18, 2014
    PortFringe, Fenix Theatre Company, Maine State Music Theatre, Deertrees Theatre, and more
  •   A COMPLEX FALL FROM GRACE  |  June 11, 2014
    Ray Marc Dumont directs a taut, colorful, riveting production of Grey Gardens for Mad Horse Theatre Company.

 See all articles by: MEGAN GRUMBLING