Switching Souls, Testing Vows
Prelude to a Kiss latest Huntington production
In the slide show above, Brian Sgambati and Cassie Beck, who play Peter and Rita in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Prelude to a Kiss, discuss playwright Craig Lucas (CAS’73). Photos by T. Charles Erickson. Slide show by Kimberly Cornuelle
“For better or for worse, in sickness and in health.”
Those vows take on a whole new significance in Craig Lucas’ Prelude to a Kiss, the current production of the Huntington Theatre Company, in residence at Boston University.
Immediately after Peter and Rita walk back down the aisle as newlyweds, an elderly stranger asks to kiss the bride, a seemingly innocent gesture that upends the lives of all three characters.
The trouble begins on the honeymoon, when Peter finds himself increasingly at odds with his new wife. “She’s changed, and he can’t explain why,” says Brian Sgambati, who plays Peter. “Everything about her is different, from her mannerisms to her values and beliefs.”
By the time they return home, Peter’s convinced that Rita isn’t Rita at all. He’s right — the kiss between Rita and the old man caused them to switch souls, trapping her in the body of a man dying of cancer.
“When Peter finally figures out what’s happened, he’s in shock,” Sgambati says. “He swore to love Rita in her old age, but he didn’t expect it to happen so soon, and he certainly didn’t expect her to be a man.”
Playing dual roles is part of “the challenge and the joy” of the role, according to Cassie Beck, who portrays Rita. “I originally thought I would play two distinct characters,” with different backgrounds, physical characteristics, and voices, she says. “But I’ve discovered it’s more realistic when I stay Rita. So even though the old man’s soul is inside of me, not much changes physically. It’s all emotional.”
Peter eventually comes to love Rita, regardless of her age and gender, but it takes time. “He learns something very profound about love,” Sgambati says. “They all do.”
Playwright Lucas (CAS’73) wrote Prelude to a Kiss in 1988, nearly a decade after AIDS began devastating the gay population. “The connection between the play and AIDS never occurred to me until someone mentioned it during rehearsal,” Sgambati says. “I think it’s a tribute to Craig that he could take something as tragic as AIDS and turn it into a magical story to which everyone can relate.”
Prelude to a Kiss runs at the BU Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., through Sunday, June 13. Tickets range from $20 to $82.50 and may be purchased online, by phone at 617-266-0800, or in person at the BU Theatre box office or at the Boston Center for the Arts Calderwood Pavilion box office, 527 Tremont St., Boston. Patrons 35 and younger may purchase $25 tickets (ID required), and there is a $5 discount for seniors and military personnel. Student rush tickets are available for $15 at the box office two hours before each performance, and members of the BU community get $10 off (ID required).
Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at email@example.com.
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