Small moments handled with care in Little Theatre’s ‘Prelude to a Kiss’

It’s cringe-worthy to call something a "feel-good show." But, sue me, I feel that’s the perfect label for Las Vegas Little Theatre’s "Prelude to a Kiss."

Director Gillen Brey has made Craig Lucas’ script romantic, humorous, mysterious, touching and life-affirming. You’re likely to go home either wanting to fall in love or reminding yourself of why you did.

I’d hate to give away much of the plot. So let’s just say a young publisher, Peter (Andrew Eddins), and young bartender Rita (Penni Mendez) meet, fall in love, and get hitched. At the wedding, a mysterious, older stranger (Dave Pomeroy) kisses the bride, and Rita becomes a different person. Literally. The reasons behind the mystic experience slowly reveal themselves, and, after causing a near split-up, result in a deepening of the relationship between man and wife.

Eddins and Mendez match perfectly. You can feel the chemistry between them, the marvelous give-and-take. Eddins, in particular, makes spontaneous acting look easy, which is to say he’s a lot more talented than people may give him credit for.

Pomeroy as the stranger is, at first, properly cryptic, but becomes enormously likable when we find out what’s up. (He gets to deliver an "As You Like It"-inspired "Seven Stages of Man" speech, which Pomeroy makes especially moving.)

Micah Epstein and Valerie Carpenter-Bernstein, as Rita’s parents, are blissfully and effortlessly eccentric.

Even brief performances have been carefully constructed. Anne-Marie Somers has one serious scene on a telephone. In her few moments, she manages to suggest a three-dimensional character. And Anthony Avery, as a bartender, commands his counter with such authority that you believe he knows his way around a cocktail lounge.

David Sankuer’s set consists, initially, of several simple, softly painted panels which, with the help of projections, represent different locations. It’s a surprise when we’re suddenly confronted with a very detailed apartment, full of color and knick-knacks that suggest Rita’s spirituality. When Andrew calls the place "great," Sankuer makes sure we understand why.

Ginny Adams’ lights add considerably to the sensuous atmosphere.

Brey is so consistent in her handling of the material, that even background bar patrons have distinct personalities. She obviously appreciates the sentiments behind this show, but skillfully keeps the sentiment in check.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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