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“Prelude to a Kiss” presented by ReAct at West of Lenin | Arts Stage – Seattle Rage

“Prelude to a Kiss” presented by ReAct at West of Lenin

This “Kiss” by Craig Lucas and directed here by David Hsieh has been around since 1988, both as stage play and movie. Partly fairy tale, partly love story, partly exploration of human relationships, it was also initially subtle political commentary in the age of AIDS.

Our couple, Peter and Rita really didn’t intend to fall in love but they do, deeply and soulfully. Theirs is a lovely wedding, but a strange old man shows up and asks to kiss the bride, She, so full of joy and graciousness lets the old guy kiss her. Neither she nor we realize, at first, that with that kiss she and he have exchanged souls. Although she looks just as she always has, her adoring new husband begins to notice strange behavior and a mysterious lack of memory on their honeymoon.

Tee Dennard plays the old, dying man who switches souls with his kiss. Mr. Dennard is an African American actor, and ReAct prides itself on its multi-ethnic casting. In this case I didn’t think it worked. Though Mr. Dennard played the role satisfactorily, the race card looms larger than the deeper issues of identity and trust that lie at the heart of this play. Do we ever really know our mate or any other person? What exactly does commitment mean? Those are the concepts we should have been thinking about rather than the physical differences between the two actors.

There’s lots of charm in this play, especially in the first act. The second act is less successful. Grace Kha Ai Nguyen as Rita has a saucy appeal, but her transition to the soul of the old man is a bit wooden.

William Poole as Peter is marvelous to watch as he unravels the puzzle and then does something about it. His versatility here is noteworthy. Call out the emotion and he’s got it—joy, passion, confusion, horror, incredulity, anger, bewilderment.

This isn’t a candidate for a Tony award, but it does provide a pleasant night at the theatre.

Through Jan. 31 at West of Lenin, 203 N. 36 St., Seattle, $12-$18, for tickets go to brownpapertickets.com or call 1 800 838-3006).

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