'Prelude to a Kiss' Feb. 24-28 at ASU
Appearances can be deceiving, but true love's unmistakable.
It's a concept Appalachian State University's Department of Theatre and Dance hopes the community will embrace Feb. 24-28 with its production of Craig Lucas's 1988 play, Prelude to a Kiss.
Directed by theater instructor Anna Ward, Prelude tells the story of a young couple, Peter and Rita, whose lives are turned upside-down after a supernatural event leads to a serious - and literal - case of soul-searching.
Immediately after Peter and Rita exchange wedding vows, a mysterious old man asks to kiss the bride. In doing so, his and Rita's souls switch bodies, and it's not until their honeymoon that Peter realizes his bride isn't who she - or he - claims to be.
Now, Peter and Rita (in the old man's body) must somehow reverse the spell, while Peter struggles to maintain his love for Rita, despite her newfound and unfortunate circumstances.
"It's a classic love story with a modern take," Ward said. "There are so many levels of meaning, as the characters are really on a journey, telling us about new perspectives on life."
Peter, played by junior theater major L.B. Brown, directly addresses the audience throughout, Ward explained, noting the importance of "prelude" in the play's title.
"'Prelude' is a preceding action that leads up to an event," she said. "By the end of it, the lesson is it's about the journey as much as the event."
Senior theater major Megan Lewicki, who plays Rita, described Prelude as a fairy-tale meets trading-places sort of story, and also a bold move on part of openly gay playwright Lucas.
Having premiered in 1988, the play has been considered by many as a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic, particularly with Peter's enduring love for Rita, despite her soul being in the body of a dying man.
Equity actor and professor emeritus Ed Pilkington, who plays the old man, said the play also touches on the timeless theme of being someone else.
"When I was a little kid, I wanted to be somebody else - the same thing when I was 10, and then as an adult," he said. "At some point, we all say, 'What would it have been like had I been born then?'"
The old man really wants to try something else, Pilkington said, which could relate to Lucas's own struggle with his feminine side, namely what life would actually be like if he were a woman.
To Lewicki, Prelude summons emotions that hit close to home for her and other graduating seniors, namely Rita's uncertainty. While Rita is confident in a resolution, apprehension still lingers.
"She wants to just skip to the end," Lewicki said. "That way, she'll know how to get there, so she can just carry on living."
"But we can't skip the prelude," Ward said.
"'We'll work things out,' Rita says to Peter," Pilkington said.
"But it takes her a little time to get there," Ward said.
The same can be said for Peter, Brown said, in that acknowledging change in people is another part of life.
"Through life, you learn people change, and they're not always who you think they are," he said. "If you really do love someone, and even though they do change ... you would do anything to just be with that person."
It's a lesson Peter learns and teaches to the audience.
"No matter what they look like, if you love someone, you'll see it," Brown said. "Not only am I teaching the audience something, but I'm also teaching myself. Through Peter, I've learned about life, and it's really interesting because I've never experienced this in a play before."
Lewicki said Prelude provides a level of character development not typically found on stage, offering viewers a unique and personal experience.
"I think it's multi-generational, as each of us is at some point in life where we'll interpret (the play) differently," Ward said.
The multi-generational appeal is not lost on Pilkington, who, as professor emeritus, has enjoyed working with students again. In fact, he was Ward's professor while she studied theater. "So, it's come full circle," Ward said.
ASU's production of Prelude to a Kiss stars L.B. Brown as Peter, William Gwyn as Taylor, Megan Lewicki as Rita, Brett Stafford as Tom, Lauren Flynn as Mrs. Boyle, Ryan Davenport as Dr. Boyle, Mary Beth Griffith as Minister, Annie McGee as Aunt Dorothy, Sean Browne as Uncle Fred, Ed Pilkington as Old Man, Prince Slater as Waiter, and Anneliese Moffitt as Leah.
Prelude to a Kiss runs Feb. 24-28 at Valborg Theater, located at 480 Howard St., on the Appalachian State campus. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28. Parking is available on campus in faculty lots, the College Street parking garage, and behind the Turchin Center.
Tickets cost $12 and $6 for students. The Valborg box office is open weekdays from 2 to 5 p.m. and one hour prior to showtime. People may purchase tickets there, by phone at (828) 262-3063, or online at http://www.theatre.appstate.edu/performances.