Prelude to a Kiss: Through the Years

When Prelude to a Kiss first opened on Broadway, it was 1990. The Cold War was ending, the first Gulf War was just beginning, and Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison after twenty-seven years. Twitter, Facebook, the iPod hadn’t been dreamed up, The Simpsons made its television debut, and Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” won the Grammy for Record of the Year. The powerful themes of Prelude to a Kiss still resonate twenty years later, but some of the details of the story might no longer be accessible to a modern audience. Playwright Craig Lucas recently updated Prelude to a Kiss and, in order to have it best reach its audience, the Huntington will be using that version.

Prelude to a Kiss was revived on Broadway in 2007. In preparation for the production, director Daniel Sullivan approached playwright Craig Lucas about making changes to the script. “It had a number of references to things that dated it to 1990,” Lucas says. “And Dan wanted to know if I felt there was anything about 1990 that was important in the narrative.” Lucas agreed to the changes, explaining, “It’s basically a little fable. It’s a fairy tale, and it wasn’t a picture of a social climate.”

Lucas says of the changes he made to his play, “They’re minor, but they do in fact move the characters into the new century.” Some of the changes are simple updates to original references. For instance, Peter is no longer the manager of the microfiche department, but rather manages the transfer of microfiche to digital. In Jamaica, Rita slathers on 60 SPF sunscreen, as opposed to the old 25 SPF.

Other changes reflect the larger changes in our cultural and political fabric. While Rita still has a history of dabbling in socialism, her opinions of the practical application of the philosophy have been strengthened by the changes she has seen Communist countries undergo. Even innocent teasing can reflect larger change. Peter no longer calls Rita “the Commie in the woodpile,” an allusion to the phrase “the nigger in the woodpile,” choosing instead to call her “the Commie in the closet,” a more contemporary phrase associated with undisclosed sexuality.

A few structural changes have been made as well. The events preceding Rita and Peter’s wedding have been slightly rearranged to allow us a more intimate view into their relationship and provide foreshadowing of the impending transformation. A brief scene has been added towards the end of the play, a glimpse of “Rita” after Peter confronts her about her identity, helping us to understand how the Old Man finds resolution.

While we no longer pay twenty-five cents to mail a letter (does anyone even still write letters?), we still love, we still wonder if we know those we love, and we still lose those we love. Craig Lucas made changes to Prelude to a Kiss, but these changes are true to his original intent and help us experience and understand the story on a more personal level.

— Anne G. Morgan

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