Prelude to a Kiss – Kiss a stranger?

Imagine for just a moment that the person you fell in love with, the person you just married, the person that you intend to spend the rest of your life with has just had a personality change that is so different you are questioning them and your own sanity. Hold that thought.

It was love at first sight in Craig Lucas’ Prelude to a Kiss, the current offering at New Village Arts Theatre. Delicia Turner Sonnenberg’s deft directorial wand has put the scripts magic onto the stage. Esther Emery created an abstract set which may be reminiscent of cooing doves, garden arbors, and other symbols of love. The moving swirls form a wedding arch, an alcove, and more. Even the marital bed carries out the theme of love.

Within this ever changing setting Rita (Kristianne Kurner) meets Peter (Joshua Everett Johnson) at a dance. Soon after that he goes to the bar that she tends. And, as they say, the rest is history. Kurner and Johnson have absolutely captured the essence of first love. From passionate kisses to giddy laughter, from a glance to looking on each other deeply . . . they are in love. Their passion leads quickly to the altar. Peter’s friend Taylor (Tim Parker) keeps Peter somewhat grounded.

Before the wedding there is the obligatory meeting of the parents, a trauma faced by many of us. Both are worried about her parents’ acceptance. Her parents, Doctor and Mrs. Boyle (Jack Missett and Kathryn Herbruck), are the stereotypical loving parents; she is quite motherly and he has a take on humor that does not translate well between generations.

At the wedding, a stranger, an old man (Charlie Riendeau) sits to the side sipping champagne. He kisses the bride and soon departs. And, thusly, the gentle love story takes twists and turns into a nightmare. Kurner and Riendeau change gender and become the other’s character. Her transition is absolutely astounding. She captures the essence of the old man, changing from a fun loving, Dewar’s drinking bartender to an embittered teetotaler. The honeymoon is a disaster and she leaves her husband.

Soon we soon encounter the old man. Riendeau has many of the characteristics of Rita. He comes close to being her. It is an awkward relationship for both Peter and the old man.

The ensemble includes Don Evans, Li-Anne Rowswell, Carlos Darze, and Anyelid Meneses. They bring body to story as dancers, waiters, wedding ceremony participants and other roles.

Prelude to a Kiss is at once a joyous celebration of young love and then a fantasy that becomes a search, a wonderment, and bit of fear. In life we change; the person we fell in love with becomes someone different. Our values may shift. In some, these changes, over the years, cause dissention and divorce. In others, these changes are just a set of new challenges in the run of our lives. Seldom, though, do these changes happen within the moment of a kiss.

Prelude to a Kiss has a mostly romantic sound track designed by Tom Jones. Jason Bieber and Ashley Jenks created an effective lighting plot. Peter, occasionally, comments directly to the audience while others are on stage, offering the designers some challenges. Director Sonnenberg’s creative skills are seen throughout as her talented cast creates all of the illusions the playwright scripted. Prelude to a Kiss is fun evening at the theatre. Sit down and be captivated.


Joshua Everett Johnson, Kristianne Kurner, Charlie Riendeau, Tim Parker, Don Evans, Kathryn Herbruck, Jack Missett, Li-Anne Rowswell, Carlos Darze, Anyelid Meneses

Technical Staff

Costume Design Amanda Sitton & Kristianne Kurner, Scenic Design Esther Emery, Light Design Ashley Jinks & Jason Bieber, Sound Design Tom Jones, Properties Pat Hansen, SM Missy Bradstreet

Genre: Comedy

Author: Craig Lucas

Director: Delicia Turner Sonneberg

Date Reviewed: April 19, 2008

Dates: Thursday to Sunday, to May 18, 2008

Running Time: 115 minutes with a 15-minute intermission

New Village Arts Theatre

2787B State Street

Carlsbad, CA

Box Office Phone: 760 433-3245


Robert Hitchcox is a playwright, critic and fiction author, who reviews live theatre.