REVIEW: Prelude to a Kiss

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I like surprises.  I especially like it when a production surprises me by exceeding my expectations.  Falcon’s PRELUDE TO A KISS did that and more.  What a delightful story and what magnificent acting from the leads.

Becca Howell (“Rita”) is an actress who continues to mature in front of Cincinnati audiences.  As an intern at Ensemble Theatre Company, she did some fine work during the Fringe Festival in 2014.  And she was pretty good in Jon Kovach’s THE FUNERAL during Know Theatre’s inaugural SERIALS piece.  And she was even better in Falcon’s THE MYSTERY PLAYS.

But in PRELUDE she is as natural as we’ve seen her.  I’ll credit director Tom Peters for knowing what makes her charming and likable and pulling that out of her in ways no one has done yet.  And she’s more experienced now, too.  Here she is smart, funny, sexy, and seductive.  And she has to play both a woman and an old man — and she does this convincingly.

Yes, you read that right.  You see, this is a story of magical realism. During her wedding, an old man (Arny Stoller) crashes the party and kisses her on the lips.  When he does, their souls switch bodies leaving the groom, Peter, to try to reverse the damage.  It’s preposterous.  But it works.

It works largely because of the meticulous direction of Peters.  His primary experience is working with high schoolers; sometimes actors (especially part-timers like the ones that make up this ensemble) need that same kind of hands on, micro managing.  It certainly helps here as everyone knows where to go, when to go there, and how to react to every situation.  It seems basic, but I can assure you not every director pays enough attention to those details.

But also this show works because of the dynamic performance of Matthew David Gellin.  Gellin, new to the stage in Cincinnati, is a professional who’s worked all over the world.  And you can tell.  His Peter is confident, poised, and authentic.  It might be the best leading male performance I’ve seen in sometime and definitely the best I’ve seen in this space.  The Ensemble ranges from fine to pretty good, especially Derek Snow as the best friend.  He doesn’t get to flex his comedic muscles nearly enough.

The show is pure romantic comedy, but there’s definitely drama. Don’t worry, though, that you’ll leave Newport heavy-hearted.  All is well in the end.  It’s a perfect Valentine’s Day weekend date, by the way, but don’t wait until it’s all sold out.

PRELUDE TO A KISS runs through February 13th at Falcon Theatre in Newport, KY.  Click here for tickets and more information.