Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
Weirdly Fascinating: “Prelude to a Kiss” at Whittier Community Theatre
The tale follows the whirlwind romance of Peter and the often pessimistic Rita up to a wedding which, thanks to the appearance of an unknown elderly man, sets their story on an odd trajectory. Is Rita still Rita, or has there been some kind of exchange between Rita and the unknown man? If so, now what?
Jason Cook is Peter, the boy in this boy-meets-girl fairy story. As such he becomes both protagonist and narrator, and is largely responsible for not only the tone but the tempo of the piece. It takes him a bit of time to warm to this, but once in full swing, he proves as nonplussed and yet desperately hopeful as one could wish. As Rita, Jessica Taylor Gable makes a good foil for Peter’s casual optimism, and switches gears well as the tale becomes more convoluted. In the second half, as more is revealed and things get weirder, both hit their stride in ways which propel the story and capture the audience’s focus.
Also worthy of note are Jose Barajas as Peter’s longtime and rather bland friend, and Nancy Tyler, particularly when playing the elderly man’s concerned daughter. Loriston Scott has some solid moments as a bartender, and Kathryn Hunter and Gary Page make real characters out of Rita’s quirky parents.
Still, it is as that elderly man that Lewis Crouse often nearly steals the show. He manages to balance the weird internal struggles of this dual person, while connecting with the two principals in very interesting ways.
Director Roxie Lee has a sense of what can make this production work and has created real connection between the characters. It all works, with one major exception. In also designing what set there is – mostly furniture which can be moved quickly on and offstage, she has neglected the fact that the stage of The Center Theatre, where they perform, is really quite large. The space defeats the innate intimacy of this piece. Narrowing the entire area would do the show great service, and perk up the first half which is broken too much by the episodic pauses for furniture shuffling.
Still, especially in the second half, “Prelude to a Kiss” proves amusing with an undercurrent of great heart. One word of warning, though. Unlike most community theater fare it has references to sexual fantasies and intimacy which may make it unsuitable for younger children, and those who would be offended by such elements.
Still, it’s worth taking a look, and celebrating a theater which may easily be the longest-running company in Southern California.
What: “Prelude to a Kiss” When: through November 17, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with a Sunday matinee 2:30 November 11 Where: The Center Theater, 7630 Washington Ave. in Whittier How Much: $18 adults, $15 seniors (62+), juniors (18 and under), students and military with ID Info: (562) 696-0600 or whittiercommunitytheatre.org