Both were cast by director Molly Smith in a production of “Damn Yankees.” Prieto would play the catcher, envisioned as a Cuban tough guy with a cigar perpetually in hand. Oscar, a native Washingtonian who received a 2001 Tony nomination for his performance as Franz Leibkind in “The Producers,” was cast as Mr. Applegate, the devil.
Unaware of Oscar’s credentials, Prieto didn’t know enough to be intimidated as rehearsals began that November. “Brad Oscar? Who’s that?” he remembers saying to a friend. “I didn't really know who he was, which I was grateful for.”
Oscar’s talent and pedigree soon became apparent, but Diego was more impressed by his warmth. “He was such a gracious person, really open to everybody,” he says. “And he’s hysterical. So in those interactions, you’d laugh your face off.”
Prieto had recently begun hoping the universe would send love into his life, but he never really considered Oscar, the star of the show. Before the show opened, they sat next to each other during rehearsal and Oscar playfully touched Prieto’s knee.
“That was the first time I remember there being a spark,” Oscar says. “Where I was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute.’ ”
A week later, at the opening night cast party, they kissed by the refreshment stand. These things happen — for the six-week or three-month duration of a production, actors work and play together, developing an instant but often fleeting intimacy. Prieto and Oscar promised each other they wouldn’t expect much of their “showmance.” “We were really honest about, ‘Let’s just enjoy the ride,’ ” Prieto says.
So he was surprised, two months later on closing night, to find himself suddenly overcome. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is the end. I lost it — I was hysterical,” he says. Oscar asked what was wrong. “I know you told me not to, but I think I fell in love with you,” Prieto said.
Oscar also began to cry and confessed he was feeling the same way. “Initially, I just felt very easy with him,” he recalls. “But also I could see that he was very kind and just a good person. And he has this laugh that I just loved.”
They decided to see what would happen when Oscar returned to his home in New York. Prieto began making frequent visits, and with each one, Oscar says, “it got better and better.”
That September, they were both cast in another Arena Stage production. They worked and lived together throughout the entire run of “Cabaret,” “and it was great,”Oscar says. “It was just so good and easy. For the first couple years I was just sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I guess if you found someone you truly connect to, it transcends a lot of the stuff that gets in the way.”
In 2007, Oscar spent eight months in Las Vegas with “The Producers.” When Prieto came out to visit, he asked if he would considering moving with him back to New York when the run was done.