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Theater Review : Chemistry Makes 'Kiss' Memorable

May 07, 1994|T. H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Sculptor Auguste Rodin once called the human body "a walking cathedral." For others, it's a house we live in, but few of us take care of it, and even fewer give it Rodin's high respect. Most of us would gladly change bodies with someone younger, better looking, sturdier.

That's the very serious idea behind Craig Lucas' rather light comedy-drama "Prelude to a Kiss" at the Huntington Beach Playhouse.

It also says something about the power of love and the trauma of embracing maturity. Peter and Rita are young and single and carefree. Until they meet at a party. Lightning strikes, they fall in love and almost immediately decide to marry, a union conceived in heaven.

At their wedding, lightning strikes again, when a strange interloper, a wandering Old Man, asks to kiss the bride. The confusion that results from Rita finding herself in the Old Man's body, and he in hers, reverberates in both families and, particularly, in the marriage between Peter and Rita.

The secret in any production of this play is in the casting of the three principals, and director Laurie T. Freed has made some sharp choices. She also weaves the matched and mismatched personality threads lucidly between Rita and the Old Man, between both of them and Peter. Some of her tempos could be goosed slightly to give the text a brighter gleam, but her sense of the interior rhythms of the scenes is faultless.

Tonya Louise David as Rita and Marc Marosi as Peter wear the roles like gloves. In the beginning, her candor and piquancy, his energy and naivete, set a tone that gradually darkens as Peter realizes his new wife is involved in a psychic shell-game. They're both attractive and have a good comic sensibility, Marosi especially in the early scenes, when he watches Rita with the adoration verging on panic of a cocker spaniel puppy greeting his master.

*

Bob May as the Old Man is a charmer, once Peter realizes that the stranger's body holds his love, and the Old Man becomes Rita. May's gentle shading is just right.

Pamela Siegel-Berryhill and Dan Rodgers are fine and funny as Rita's well-to-do, suburbanite parents, among a good supporting cast.

The use of set pieces that are pushed surreptitiously onstage for designer Martin G. Eckmann's multi-settings is effective, but it would be more so if the stage area weren't so deep. There's a lot of wasted space behind the action; lighting designer Terri Foy-Verhaegen's pools of light help enclose the scenes well but don't solve the problem.

* "Prelude to a Kiss," Huntington Beach Playhouse, Huntington Beach Central Library, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends May 22. $9-$12. (714) 375-0696. Running time: 1 hours, 50 minutes.

Marc Marosi: Peter

Tonya Louise David: Rita

Old Man: Bob May

Pamela Siegel-Berryhill: Mrs. Boyle

Dan Rodgers: Mr. Boyle

A Huntington Beach Playhouse production of Craig Lucas' comedy-drama, produced by Kent Johnson and Gloria Gardiner. Directed by Laurie T. Freed. Scenic design: Martin G. Eckmann. Lighting design: Terri Foy-Verhaegen. Sound design: Jerry Ram. Costumes: Paula K. Thill, Rose Ram. Stage manager: Paula K. Thill.

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