Spotlight: Prelude to a Kiss

John Autey

This was a somewhat inexplicable hit on Broadway more than a decade ago, as well as a successful 1992 film. Peter and Rita get married after a whirlwind romance and, at their wedding, a strange old man appears asking to kiss the bride. Seems harmless, until their minds switch bodies--the honeymoon that follows is understandably strange. Craig Lucas's script is a tame, housebroken little thing, sidestepping all but the most acceptable psychosexual implications his scenario suggests. This production manages to make at least a satisfying snack out of what could have been the theatrical equivalent of airplane food. Ryan Parker Knox as Peter is self-effacing and likeable, and Crystal Rose Thomas as Rita provides appealingly youthful neurosis. Their honeymoon scene, in which Thomas plays an old man inhabiting the body of a babe in a bathing suit, and making hash of his own acting gig, glides along with easygoing kinkiness. Unfortunately the process of finding the truth and setting things right has such a tired inevitability that the proceedings tend to grind on. I found myself formulating a criticism of Knox for not conveying the detective side of his character, then realized that it was sort of missing the point to observe that every "t" hadn't been crossed. This is essentially a featherweight fairytale in which a few enjoyable scenes are strung together by characters who embody absurdity while rarely plumbing its depths. When Robert Larsen's old man reappears, though, inhabited by Rita's mind and soul, things improve considerably. Knox and Larsen forge a touching connection, with Larsen evincing an affecting frailty and flashes of Thomas's performance of a young woman beset by hopelessness. When Rita and the old man finally meet, in the wrong bodies, this production manages its best work. Larsen and Thomas give us one life nearly finished and another so fearful that it barely walked the earth. It's a case of a cast and director (Casey Radmann) finding what truth the work had to offer. Too bad the kernel of insight fails to justify the machinations that produced it.

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