At one point or another, we’ve all wanted to switch places with someone else. The nerd-girl? She wants to strut the halls as “queen bee.” The little-leaguer? He wants to hit homers like Andrew McCutchen. Children want to be grown-ups so they can have all the answers, and grown-ups want to be children, free from the stresses of adulthood.
In 1976, this fantasy of the human imagination was fulfilled in the Disney film Freaky Friday, in which a rebellious teen and her type-A mother switch places for one “freaky” day. In 2003, Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis starred in a smash-hit remake, revitalizing the universal fascination with this idea of swapping bodies, switching souls.
Portraying this supernatural phenomenon onscreen can be achieved through complex camera pans, split-screens and freeze-frames…but what happens when you try to tackle this feat onstage?
Craig Lucas’ romantic comedy Prelude to a Kiss features a unique version of the iconic Freaky Friday body-swap, one that Little Lake will reveal to audiences with the play’s opening on October 1. When a mysterious old man appears at the wedding reception of lovers Peter and Rita, one congratulatory kiss changes the lives of these three souls forever. And as an added challenge for the actors, this swap occurs between an elderly man and a bright, witty young woman. (Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis had it easy!)
So how exactly can a body-swap happen onstage? And how did the actors involved respond to such a unique acting test? John Reilly, a Little Lake veteran and Prelude to a Kiss cast member, said he was absolutely thrilled when he found out that he would get to switch souls with a fellow actor.
“One hopes that every role will be creative fun,” Reilly said. “When I got the phone call from Roxy, it was more than the usual pleasure of knowing I was going to be involved in the creative process again; I knew I was going to be ‘stretched,’ and that is always a thrill.”
Not only was the experience a thrill; it was also a challenge, according to Reilly. Not only does he take on the young woman’s physical traits, but also her strong personality and emotional honesty.
“The difficult part,” he said, “has been incorporating the right body posture, gestures and vocal patterns and trying to make them organic and not superficially ‘laid on.’ And I’m not just playing any young woman. This woman, Rita, is independent, good-humored and most importantly anxious about the future.”
For Reilly, portraying Rita’s emotional side – her nervousness about what the future holds and her deep love for her husband – were an even greater stretch than portraying her physical traits.
“Rita has committed herself to loving Peter; it has given her a positive outlook and she desperately wants to hold onto that. The surprising thing for me in this process,” said Reilly, “is finding this inside myself – experiencing no-holds-barred love – at 70. What a trip!”
In addition to entertaining audiences with its supernatural elements, Prelude to a Kiss evokes contemplation about what it means to devote yourself to someone forever, and about what love looks like (and how it changes) at different stages of life.
Little Lake’s 2015 season dealt in large part with love and desire and the wild things that happen when two people fall for each other, head-over-heels. “To use an old aviation expression, these themes of desire and love have allowed the actors in particular to go ‘balls to the wall,’” said Reilly. “It’s been great fun to watch. Prelude to a Kiss is certainly part of that fabric.”
Prelude to a Kiss runs October 1-3; 8-10; and 15-17 at 8 p.m.
To purchase tickets, call the Little Lake Box Office at (724) 745-6300, or order online at www.littlelake.org.