|Kevin Kline and Kate Burton. Photo: Joan Marcus
By Noel Coward
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel
St. James Theatre
Through July 2
By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A limited run of Noel Coward's comedy Present Laughter, starring Kevin Kline, Kate Burton and Kristine Nielsen. Kline is Garry Essendine, a full-of-himself actor who tries to juggle his many female conquests, his secretary, Monica (Nielsen), a valet, Fred (an affable Matt Bittner), a chain-smoking, spiritualist housekeeper, Mrs. Erikson (Ellen Harvey) and his ex, well, not really ex, wife, Liz (Burton). All of this takes place in his London studio apartment (painted an odd aquamarine color with modern art covering the two levels and stairway designed by David Zinn).
As expected in a farce, there are a number of doors, and people hiding behind them. Among those hidden are love-sick Daphne (Tedra Millan) and creepy playwright-stalker Rolande Maule (Bhavesh Patel). Meanwhile, Garry also gets entangled with Joanna (Cobie Smulders), who married his best friend, Henry (Peter Francis James) and is having an affair with Garry's manager, Morris Dixon (Reg Rogers). Completing the cast is Sandra Shipley as Daphne's socialite aunt, Lady Saltburn
What Are the Highlights?
Kline is a master of comedic timing. Actors should come watch this performance as part of a master class. Burton is a nice foil, even if her character seems to be resigned to thinking all the other women in her husband's life is normal. The first act seemed to be a waste of Nielsen's talent and she seemed uncomfortable on stage. She is a personal favorite who usually has me in stitches. She came into her own in the second act, however, masterfully reacting to bizarre situations.
What Are the Lowlights?
This is one of the plays that has me shaking my head in bewilderment as to why they keep getting revived. What might have been funny back in 1939 when Coward wrote the piece isn't really now. This type of farce that feels like it was created by a bunch of men getting drunk on brandy at the club usually finds humor at the expense of under-developed female characters. This one is done with as much style as possible and with good comedic actors, but still just doesn't satisfy, no matter how many times one of the women claim to have misplaced their latch keys....
Present Laughter plays at the St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th St., NYC through July 2. www.LaughterOnBroadway.com
Costume design by Susan Hilferty, Lighting Design by Justin Townsend, Sound Design by Fitz Patton, Hair Design by Josh Marquette.
-- Slight language
-- Lots of trysting