They say a kiss is just a kiss, but sometimes it's more. Sometimes it changes your life. Or on a rare occasion, deposits you directly into another's person's body.
Whichever comes first.
On a cold Saturday afternoon in January, there's a lot of kissing going on. The two leads of the Fine Arts Center production of Craig Lucas' 1988 play, "Prelude to a Kiss," are quickly heating the room up. The show opens Thursday.
Newcomer Cynthia Pohlson and Kyle Dean Steffen, who played Curley in last year's FAC production "Of Mice and Men," star as Rita and Peter. They rehearse the first act, and practice meeting cute. Sweetly and nervously, they exchange a first kiss -- one, two, three times.
Though the first act of the play is all rainbows and true love, it won't be for long. Misfortune will soon arrive at their wedding, disguised as an old, unknown man who wanders in and wants to congratulate the bride with a kiss. With one swift press of his lips to hers, the entire future the young couple banked on unravels. The old man and Rita exchange bodies "Freaky Friday"-style. She finds herself in a man's decaying body, while the old man's soul is deposited into her fresh, unscathed canvas.
A 1992 film version starred Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan as the couple, and Sydney Walker as the old man.
Although considered a romantic comedy, a more serious undertone runs through the play. Lucas wrote his play as a response to the AIDS epidemic, which weighed heavily on the country at the time of his writing. It as an allegorical tale of what it might be like to watch a lover wither away before one's eyes.
"As one of my cast members said, this is one of the only AIDS plays that doesn’t mention AIDS," said Pohlson, who is making her debut on both the Fine Arts Center stage and in Colorado Springs.
Nowadays the specter of the AIDS death sentence is considerably less oppressive. The play can be taken more as a contemplation on love, commitment and the fear of death.
"What I take away (from the play) is loving life no matter what stage of life you’re in, and overcoming your fears of what stops you from living and loving," Pohlson says. "One of my favorite quotes is from my mom. 'Love like it isn’t going to hurt.'"
Although the show isn't light and fluffy, it is a comedy in the classical sense, said director Garrett Ayers, because there is no resolution. He commutes from Boulder, and makes his directorial debut at the FAC and in Colorado Springs.
"Tragedies have a resolution. Comedies do not," he said. "This play is called a modern fairytale. Fairy tales have a lesson and a moral and they live happily ever after. (This play) is one because there is no happily ever after, but there is optimism."
After their bewildering wedding mishap, Peter and Rita spend the rest of the play finding their way back to each other. To do so, they must decipher what love means to them when the face of it inexplicably changes.
"Married people or people in relationships -- sometimes they evolve around the same times, but more often than not, you don’t," Ayers says.
"What do you do when you have those moments? The play is asking us to be better and reach higher. When you’re young and a guy, it’s about lust and the physical experience, but what happens when the looks fade and interests change? Hopefully your relationship ripens."