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Lucas, Craig (b. 1951)  
 
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The play's antic spirit, with a surrealistic conjunction of TV game shows and threats to its heroine's life, keeps audiences laughing while Lucas assesses the toll that being alone and on the run takes on Rachel. The film version (1995), with Mia Farrow in a performance that downplays the spunky exuberance found in most staged versions, illuminates Lucas's statement that he wrote Reckless to explore his feelings about his early abandonment; in the film the deeply affecting performance of Stephen Dorff as Rachel's grown son stands out more clearly because of Farrow's interpretation.

Longtime Companion and Prelude to a Kiss

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The pop-culture references, sassy humor, and fluid scene-movement of Blue Window, Three Postcards (a 1987 collaboration with composer Craig Carnelia about three women's uneasy but enduring friendship), and Reckless (not to mention Lucas's ability to rethink Blue Window cinematically in his screenplay for its American Playhouse telecast) soon attracted the attention of Hollywood producers. When they asked for film projects from Lucas, he proposed one about the impact of AIDS on a group of friends in the early 1980s. In revisiting the making of Longtime Companion in a 2002 article in The Advocate, Lucas spoke of the chilling silence that filled one conference room after another at his suggestion. He also gives full credit to Lindsay Law, producer of PBS's American Playhouse at the time, for determining to bring that landmark film to the screen in 1990.

In 1990 when he was putting the finishing touches on Longtime Companion with Norman René as director of his original screenplay, Lucas was working on another very different stage project (also with René as director). Prelude to a Kiss (1990) is a romantic comedy about a marriage challenged from its first moments.

At her wedding reception Rita is kissed by a mysterious stranger. As if by magic, the kiss enables the stranger's personality to move into Rita's body and vice versa. The physical Rita, inhabited by the alien spirit, and her new husband Peter then go off on a honeymoon to Jamaica; needless to say Peter is perplexed by the odd changes in the woman he married. The play's nod to the storytelling traditions of fairy tales appears when the forces of true love, goodness, faith, and persistence eventually reverse the mysterious transmigration of souls.

Before that happens, however, the Spirit of Rita resident in the stranger's body begs: "So we might as well have a good time while we're here, don't you think?" This plea can serve as a motto for more than one of Lucas's put-upon survivors. Playing Rita, endearingly complex in her original state and comically cantankerous later when occupied by the stranger's personality, Mary-Louise Parker received wide acclaim and became a Broadway star; the play itself became Lucas's biggest Broadway success to date.

Almost simultaneously with the commercial success of Prelude to a Kiss, Longtime Companion debuted in movie theaters. In contrast to Lucas's effervescent, even fantastical, stage work up to that time, this film about a circle of friends in New York City in the 1980s is a naturalistic chronicle of the impact of the AIDS pandemic. From July 3, 1981, the day The New York Times first ran an article on a mysterious syndrome appearing in homosexual men, through July 19, 1989, when only three members of the work's original circle of eight characters survive, the movie portrays the way the world abruptly changed for gay men and their families and friends.

With its attention to everyday details within the circle, Longtime Companion reflects Lucas's own experience (he was a volunteer for Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York and lost many lovers and friends to AIDS). The film, as a result, carries the emotional power of witness testimony: it depicts the stages of the pandemic from early fear and denial, through the years of care-giving and loss, to the shell-shock and exhaustion of those who survive.

Near the end of the film the characters Willy (Campbell Scott), Alan/Fuzzy (Stephen Caffrey), and Lisa (Mary-Louise Parker) are strolling on the beach at Fire Island; their mood is subdued compared to that of the summer of 1981. Willy, the now-weary, once-wide-eyed innocent, notes that his one wish after seeing so many of his friends die is "to be there if they ever find a cure." The vision that the three friends share of what such a day would be like is the basis for one of the film's few flights of fantasy: everyone they had lost races back to the beach for a joyous reunion, and then, in an instant, the imagined celebration dissolves. As the film ends, the three friends are back in their reality of grief and loss.

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