Time to Remember
Just your typical boy meets girl- falls head over heels in love- impulsively marries girl- girl turns out not to be who boy thought- kind of story. I jest, but that reductive description does work on some level. Luckily the fantastical play is rich with many more intricacies and layered with meaning about what it means to truly love someone for who they are despite their physical change and ailments, to love their soul . Peter meets Rita (a bartender at a party) and instantly falls in love. After a brief courtship, they marry. At the reception, an old man wanders in and kisses Rita , only to stumble back and claim that he is Rita. Cut to the honeymoon where Rita's odd out of character behavior convinces Peter that something has changed in his bride. After many mis-steps and memory blunders on Rita's part, Peter is finally convinced that THIS IS NOT RIITA! It is someone wearing Rita, but it is not the woman he fell in love with. Soon after their return from the honeymoon, he runs into the old man at the bar , drinking Rita's favorite drink, and realizes that somehow the old man is Rita.
Prelude to a Kiss, written by Craig Lucas in the late 80's, was seen as an allegory to the AIDS crisis and that still resonates today but the play works on many other levels and themes. How well do we know the ones we love- whether your romantic interest or your family? How would we feel if that person suddenly became sick/aged before our eyes- outward appearances changing drastically but still the same person inside?
Director Doug Gilliland brings a grounded take for this fantastical tale and coaxes stylistically naturalistic performances from his talented cast (I attribute this to him because the cast has varying degrees of experience and he masterfully balances them all , playing to their strengths, making them a truly cohesive ensemble.)
Jason Blanks (Peter) is the true heart and soul of the play which we see through his eyes. His performance is genuine and unaffected, and his chemistry with the beautiful Melissa Bowman (Rita) is palpable. Their scenes together have a lived in quality that reads as tangible and authentic. Bowman is a true find. She subtly plays the differences between Rita and the old man without being over the top ( which would be a weaker performers choice). Arthur Mackey McMurty plays the old man ( with the greater part of his performance as the Rita version). He brings a sweetness and an uninhibited physicality to the difficult role that I found fearless in its intimacy.
Strong performances abound in the supporting cast as well- from the charming stage debut of Daniel Gherkin(Taylor) playing Peter's best friend, Kathy Tinder-Lindsey (Leah) has a lovely scene on the phone that wrings tears as the old man's daughter, and Diane Reeves as the quippy and vivacious Aunt Dorothy, Samantha Neely as Rita's protective co-worker Tam, Michael Anthony Butler as the saucey Jamaican waiter. Daphne Lewis brings her finely attuned comic ability to the role of Rita's wry Mom , and Clay Wambo is perfect as her clueless Dad. They all work well together in bringing this tale to life.
The set is beautiful and simple- evocative without being literal-walls of spattered square and rectangular panels overlaid with tromp loleil of cherry blossom trees.The lighting was effective and theatrical- the use of the follow-spot helped the seamless transition of scenes, keeping the play in fluid constant motion.
This is an absolute must see show. Beautiful and touching, a modern fairy tale for adults. It plays Friday, Saturday , and Sunday May 1st through the 17th. Call for reservations 265-3226.
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