Brian Beary is one of those idealistic theatre wunderkinder, who look at the big picture and see where they can apply themselves to better their community. While many young practictioners of the acting craft look to enhance their own careers through the endless process of auditions and callbacks, he has decided to gain experience and help fellow actors through an altruistic endeavor.
Beary through his Playbill Stage Productions company has organized his own fundraisers for two needy institutions by staging Craig Lucas‘ Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-nominated “Prelude to a Kiss.” Last week the Actor’s Theatre of New Orleans played host for the production. All funds raised went directly to benefit them. This weekend the final performances will be held at the Teatro Wego! to benefit the Jefferson Performing Arts Society (JPAS). The production is directed by Dane Rhodes with the design and producing honors going to Beary.
Will Schneider and Andrea Watson star as Peter and Rita, a young couple who fall in love and prepare to marry. In the initial scenes we learn of certain aspects of Rita’s character – certain likes and dislikes – which are intractable. At her wedding ceremony an elderly man, played by Richard Hutton, appears just as the couple are preparing to kiss for the first time as man and wife. When he kisses the bride, a transference occurs, and the two swap souls, the old man entering the young bride’s body and she entering the old man’s.
This fantastic tale makes for a nice departure from the expected. Lucas allows us to examine the true connection between people, i.e. their souls. Rita’s transformation is subtle at first, but later is quite pronounced and confusing to Peter. Yet, when he does figure it out and locates the old man, there is an instant connection between the two.
Watson’s performance as Rita is perhaps the most demanding because she must assume an entirely different personality within her shapely form. Schneider’s characterization of Peter at first shows bewilderment, which eventually turns to enlightenment. His ability to defy conventionality and reach out to the old man is perhaps the greatest leap of faith he will ever take. Lucas, who is a renowned gay playwright, is known for several plays that explore gay sexuality. Although this is considered one of his straight plays, it is interesting how the context examines “gay” relationships that are, according to the play, actually not what they seem.
Supporting cast members are Clifton Beary, Angela Breckenridge, Andy Elliott and Madelaine Feldman.
Beary’s production includes the original music by Lauren Barrett Bruns, which was used in the first Broadway production of the play back in 1990. The play is considered appropriate for mature audiences only.
Tickets are $20 each or $18 for seniors and students. The last three performances are tonight and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Teatro Wego!, 177 Sala Avenue in Westwego. The final matinee will be held at 2:00 p.m. For ticket information call JPAS at 504-885-2000 or online here.