Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: Present Laughter

Kevin Kline and Kate Burton. Photo: Joan Marcus
Present Laughter
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....

More information:
Present Laughter plays at the St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th St., NYC through July 2. www.LaughterOnBroadway.com

Additional credits:
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

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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