Theater Reviews

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American Airlines Theatre
Through April 22

It wouldn't have been surprising if "Prelude to a Kiss," Craig Lucas' 1990 drama depicting the mystical effects on a newlywed couple after the bride kisses a mysterious old man at their wedding, had not held up nearly two decades later. The play, which could easily be seen as a response to the AIDS epidemic, might now have seemed as specific to its time as Lucas' screenplay for "Longtime Companion."

The Roundabout's current Broadway revival demonstrates that the work has lost none of its power to enchant. With its mystical story line depicting what happens when a beautiful young woman and a decrepit old man somehow exchange bodies, the play works as a beautiful metaphor for the essential unknowingness of even the most important people in our lives and the inevitable connection between spiritual and physical love.

True, anyone who saw the original off-Broadway production starring Alec Baldwin, Mary-Louise Parker and the inimitable Barnard Hughes might find the current version inevitably lacking by comparison. But this revival -- directed by Daniel Sullivan and starring Alan Tudyk and Annie Parisse as the ill-fated couple and John Mahoney as the mysterious stranger -- more than fulfills the play's potential.

Tudyk, who has employed his boyish charm to great effect in such films as "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" and "Serenity" and Broadway shows like "Monty Python's Spamalot," is very appealing as a man who falls in love only to suddenly find that his wife is a complete stranger. Parisse brings interestingly edgy qualities to her dual roles as the woman who throws herself into everything she does and the persnickety old man possessing her.

Mahoney is deeply touching as the old man with a desperately love-struck young woman trapped within, even if the actor is so naturally dashing and youthful that the contrast between him and the buff Tudyk is less striking than that of any number of male couples encountered on a random stroll through New York's Chelsea neighborhood.

Sullivan handles the alternately comic and poignant elements of the work in eminently skillful fashion and has elicited sterling work from an ensemble that includes such reliable pros as James Rebhorn and Robin Bartlett as the bride's loving but clueless parents.

Prelude to a Kiss
Presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company

Credits: Playwright: Craig Lucas; Director: Daniel Sullivan; Set designer: Santo Loquasto; Costume designer: Jane Greenwood; Lighting designer: Donald Holder; Original music/sound designer: John Gromada. Cast: Old Man: John Mahoney; Rita: Annie Parisse; Peter: Alan Tudyk; Mrs. Boyle: Robin Bartlett; Dr. Boyle: James Rebhorn.

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