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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey


  (L to R) Melissa Miller, Allison Mackie and Julie Jesneck/ Ph: Gerry Goodstein

Praise is in order for Bonnie J. Monte, the producing director of The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, for this revival of the rarely produced vintage Noel Coward comedy Fallen Angels. Coward designed the naughty lark in his youth to titillate his audience, but the 1925 play was initially met with cries that it was shocking, vulgar and obscene. (The stars were Tallulah Bankhead, who learned the role in four days, replacing the ailing Margaret Bannerman, and Edna Best). It did not fare much better in New York two years later with Estelle Winwood and Fay Bainter.
Times have changed, and the lightweight banter of two bored housewives reflecting on their amorous past is pretty mild stuff now. Coward would perfect his comic art four years later with Private Lives. But make no mistake, on the Garden State stage, the master is still at the top of his game, and director Matthew Arbour has staged the whimsy with an artful sense of outrageous posturing, knockabout gymnastics and a briskly incisive sense of comic timing. He has been blessed with the gifted talents of Julie Jesneck as Julia and Melissa Miller as her best friend Jane.
While their husbands embark on a golfing outing, the ladies engage in reminiscence of a pre-marital affair with an irresistible Frenchman (who is rumored to be back in town). In the second act, or second scene as performed in Madison, the ladies go at "hammer and tongs" engaging in some bitter, hostile rivalry, which results in a knockabout brawl fueled by the tippling of too much champagne. Jesneck and Miller offer suitably contrasting images in style and delivery, with fanciful pluck added by Jesneck's wide-eyed delivery.
There is also a plum bonus from Allison Mackie as Saunders, the eternal housemaid who appears to have a profound knowledge of golf, musical tone, hangovers and the perfect way to prepare gin. Mackie deliciously pours the drinks and answers the call. In a somewhat rushed finale, Ned Noyes and Jeffrey M. Bender are crisply puzzled as the stunned husbands. Bender's expressions are ever so amusing, and he looks like a young, slender Robert Morley. Michael Sharon is distinctively suave in the underwritten role of the amorous Frenchman.
Charles Corcoran has designed a fashionable Mayfair set, and Martha Bromelmeier has dressed the players in handsome togs that complement London's elegant past.


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