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Prelude to a Kiss is a 1988 play by Craig Lucas. It tells the story of a couple that falls in love despite the girl's pessimistic outlook on life. Shortly after their wedding, a supernatural event tests the strength of their love and commitment to each other.

Prelude to a Kiss
Written byCraig Lucas
CharactersPeter Hoskins
Rita Boyle
Old Man
Date premiered1988
Place premieredCosta Mesa, California
Original languageEnglish
GenreRomantic Comedy

The title is taken from the 1938 torch song of the same title by Duke Ellington.

Plot synopsisEdit

Immediately after a young couple named Peter and Rita have exchanged wedding vows, an unknown elderly man asks to kiss the bride. As he does, Rita's soul and the old man's magically exchange bodies.

Neither Peter nor the wedding guests grasp what has happened. Peter leaves the wedding with a woman he believes is Rita. During their honeymoon, he comes to realize that Rita's body is no longer inhabited by Rita's true personality. He must find the old man and keep his unconditional love for Rita alive despite the fact that she is now in an unattractive body.

Dramatic analysisEdit

Critic Frank Rich wrote: "...this play can be taken as an indirect treatment of [AIDS]. The epidemic is to Mr. Lucas what Babi Yar was to D. M. Thomas, and Peter's fidelity to his true love's soul is transparent.[1] Critic James Hebert wrote: "When it premiered in 1990 it was widely presumed to be an oblique response to the ravages of AIDS. Long removed from that time, it becomes a broader commentary on eternal topics like the limits of love and the meaning of commitment."[2]


The play was commissioned and originally staged by South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, California in January 1988. It opened off-Broadway at Circle Repertory Company on March 14, 1990 (February 20 previews) starring Alec Baldwin, Mary-Louise Parker, Debra Monk, L. Peter Callender, Craig Bockhorn, and John Dossett, and directed by Norman René, who had directed at South Coast Repertory.[3]

After receiving rave reviews,[1] the production moved to the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway, on May 1, 1990, with Timothy Hutton replacing Baldwin. Other cast members included Barnard Hughes, Debra Monk, John Dossett, and Larry Bryggman. The play closed on May 19, 1991, after 440 performances, received a Tony Award nomination as Best Play, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

A revival was produced in 2003 at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, California.

A revival opened on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre on March 8, 2007, produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company. Alan Tudyk, Annie Parisse and John Mahoney starred in the lead roles, with Robin Bartlett, James Rebhorn, and Matthew Rauch in the featured supporting cast. The show was directed by Daniel Sullivan with original music by John Gromada, scenery by Santo Loquasto, costumes by Jane Greenwood, and lighting by Donald Holder.[4]

A film version came out in 1992 starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan.


  1. ^ a b Rich, Frank."Prelude to a Kiss, a Fairy Tale Of Souls in Love and in Flight",The New York Times, March 15, 1990
  2. ^ Hebert, James."Lucas' 'Prelude to a Kiss' gets a nimble staging in Carlsbad", Union-Tribune, San Diego, April 22, 2008
  3. ^ Lucas, Craig. Prelude to a kiss and other plays (2002), Theatre Communications Group, ISBN 1-55936-193-X, p. 4
  4. ^ Sommer, Elyse."A CurtainUp Review:Prelude to a Kiss",, March 9, 2007

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