On Oct. 16, the Queens College theatre department debuted their fall theatre season to a sold out audience with Craig Lucas’ “Prelude to a Kiss”. Under direction of theatre professor Claudia Feldstein, the production starred both QC students and professors.
Perhaps best known for the 1992 film adaption of the same name, starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan, “Prelude to a Kiss” is a modern fable about a couple whose relationship is tested by a supernatural encounter of the “Freaky Friday” variety.
Students Manuel Estevez and Bryn O’Connor played opposite one another as the couple, Peter and Rita, who meet at a party and eventually get married. Despite opening night nerves, Estevez eventually found his footing as the calculated lead and narrator. O’Connor shined in a demanding role that had her not only playing the feisty, self-proclaimed insomniac, Rita, but also the soul of the 60 year-old man that possessed her body.
Director Feldstein attested to the challenging nature of the roles.
“It was wonderful working with them,” she said. “I think they had wonderful chemistry. Over the past four weeks, they really learned to trust one another and find all the positive things in each other.”
The predominantly student based cast had the unique pleasure of sharing the stage with professor Lou Vuolo, playing the old man who switches bodies with Rita after the fateful kiss on her wedding day. Vuolo is a favorite in QC’s theatre department as well as a professional actor. Feldstein credited him as a great addition to the production.
“He loves working with all the talented and devoted students,” she said. “They learn a lot from working with a professional.”
Vuolo’s experience translated on stage as well. Like O’Connor, he was faced with the task of a dual role – one as the Old Man and one as Rita in the Old Man’s body.
The production featured a unique design that was complemented by the large ensemble cast. Each scene had its own backdrop image projected onto a white curtain, which lined the back of the stage. In combination with the ensemble that strategically blended into their respective environments, the result was much like a movie scene. This was exactly Feldstein’s intention.
“The play is written a lot like a movie,” she said. “We go from one location to another with no time for scene changes. When I read the play, I wondered how we could help the scenes move quickly from one to another and the idea of projections seemed like a good answer.”
Surrounding the make-shift stage in the intimate Rathaus Theater, was a construction of trees and a large moon to accentuate the fantasy aspects of the show. This part of the set was built by QC theater students in an intro to technical theater class.
The combined effort of faculty and students brought every aspect of the production to new heights. This powerful production showcased talent on every level of stagecraft while sharing a story that resonates with people of any age.
“I think people will take away different meanings,” Feldstein said. “There are strong themes about love and what it means to truly put yourself in another’s shoes. Also, themes about aging and the brief time we all have on this planet. For me, there is also a strong theme about willing or wanting things into being and how powerful our intentions are in determining our lives.”