“Prelude” opens with a kiss so sweet

Rita (Peyton Victoria) switches bodies with an old man (Ron Smith) to the dismay of husband Peter (Kot Takahashi).

Jarrett Rodriguez, Managing Editor

Rating: 4/5

As a strong kickoff to the 2014-2015 season, the Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts’ production of “Prelude to a Kiss” is less a peck on the cheek and more a full-blown makeout session.

Written by playwright Craig Lucas, the story is timeless yet remains relatively fresh. Peter, the protagonist played by Kot Takahashi, falls for Rita, played by Peyton Victoria. Rita, who is very cynical of love and marriage, is hesitant at first but allows herself to fall for Peter. The two decide to get married after six weeks of dating, knowing that their love is real. But their love is pushed to the limits when a mysterious old man appears at the reception and asks to kiss the bride. When Rita agrees, they kiss and switch bodies without anyone realizing. Over time Peter begins to question his new bride and wonders why she is so different, struggling with his love for her.

From the start, the play hooks you in with its great performances. Takahashi was spot-on and instantly believable. He comes off as slightly awkward in a fun, lovable way. As the story progresses Peter begins to question not only his sanity but his new bride’s identity. The chemistry between Takahashi and Victoria makes it is easy for audiences to fall in love with both of them.

Victoria’s performance was well-done in the second half of the play. Rita’s character at first seemed a little cliché and flat. When the bodies are switched, Victoria’s skilled performance comes to life. Watching her play an old man in a woman’s body is not only believable but also downright hilarious. From the way she walks to the excitement she expresses as she experiences being a young woman is fantastic. Peter’s growing skepticism about Rita’s identity results in some exquisitely witty banter. The only chemistry better than that of Takahashi and Victoria happens when the old man gets involved.

The old man, played by Ron Smith, was so convincing as Rita that at times it is easy to actually believe that the two switched bodies. Smith’s entire body language was exactly like Rita’s, from his crossed legs to his hand movements. When Peter finally figures out that Rita and the old man have switched bodies, he stumbles on the old man in the bar, and the two begin to hatch a plan to get her body back. Their interactions with each other are the perfect blend of humor and sadness. The latter emerged toward the end of the play and grasped the attention of the crowd.

The other members of the cast contributed funny moments. Peter’s best friend Taylor, played by Adriano Brown, stole most of the scenes he was in as the drunk, crude guy with no filter. The scenes with Rita’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Boyle, were funny and charming; Trevor Sakai-Jolivet and Govinda Taskey brought them to life with many humorous moments. Sakai-Jolivet was especially convincing in the more serious moments. His raised voice was enough to silence the theatre like they were being scolded.

The cast was spot on the entire performance, with no flubs or mess-ups whatsoever. The acting worked great against the minimalist stage design, which consisted of several props and a small, shifting backdrop that was used efficiently.

What truly got the audience involved had a lot to do with the small amount of room the actors worked in. When Rita and Peter walk in the city streets, they would walk up the stairs where the audience was sitting, making you turn your head for an extra close focus. Some seemed to not like this approach but most were thrilled by it. It kept the audience focused on the characters and with some suspension of disbelief, it was easy to get lost in.

On a technical level, the lighting and sound were used to great advantage. They brought to life the idea that they were in such locations as New York and Jamaica, while the current soundtrack drove it home that this took place in 2014. The body switches between the old man and Rita were accompanied by psychedelic lights that worked well with the confined space and technology they had.

Though it has a similar plot to PG-rated classics such as “Princess and the Frog” or “Freaky Friday,” the play’s subject matter was more adult-themed and recommended for ages 14 and above. The sparse use of swear words and the occasional sex reference made it seem like it was a lot more adult than most 14-year-olds should be exposed to, so be cautious when bringing them to the show.

“Prelude to a Kiss” wrapped up with an excellent message about the eternity of love, while raising very serious questions: Does love transcend beauty? Can we accept the limits of the human body?

Regardless of the answers you walk away with, the play is definitely worth the price of admission.