PRELUDE TO A KISS, a romantic comedy that first played in New York in 1990, and was later the basis for a successful film, explores the relationship that develops between Peter and Rita. They meet at a bar where Rita works, fall madly in bed together and before long are co-habiting and planning a wedding. It’s a fairy tale romance, but sometimes fairy tales can get very weird. A kiss from an old man on her wedding day transforms Rita into a stranger, making Peter’s honeymoon a nightmare.
Ted Powers effectively displays Peter’s confusion and, acting as narrator, he leads us through this tangled maze of a story. Powers makes Peter likable guy who becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of what happened to the girl he loved.
The slightly off-centre Rita is played here with sexy charm by Kat Karpenchuk. She makes Rita’s transformation believable, making us long for this story to resolve itself.
In her more intimate scenes with Powers, she delivers her lines with a refreshing naturalness that spotlights the character’s inherent distrust of her growing feelings.
As the old man who exchanges souls with Rita through that one mysterious kiss, Derek Dorey brings a touching and gentle sadness to the character, winning sympathy for his quest to return to a younger, healthier state.
The three leading players are surrounded by an ensemble of players who portray a variety of supporting roles including Stephen McLarty as Peter’s best friend, Taylor; Donald G. Baker and Laura Wilde as Rita’s Parents; and Elizabeth Stinson as both the flashy Aunt Dorothy, and the club singer who opens the play with the Duke Ellington song that inspired the title.
Director Nicholas Banks keeps the production focused on character and story development, although his set design of various blocks and benches sometimes hinders the action as the pieces are slowly and somewhat noisily shifted around by the cast members. Banks makes up for this by having the leading players give strongly committed performances. Even as the supernatural aspects of the script play out, thanks to the work of both director and cast it makes you want to believe in the magic.
Prelude to a Kiss continues April 19 to 21 at Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Dr. For performance times and tickets visit http://www.amicusproductions.ca/current_season.php or call 416-860-6176.