A Song at Twilight
Coward evidently based his work, set in the early to mid-1960s, upon a predicament endured by the British writer W. Somerset Maugham, who, during his lifetime, kept his homosexuality covert. The play is set in a posh hotel in Switzerland and the leading man, Hugo Latymer is played by veteran actor Brian Murray. Murray has a distinctive presence, but his words, from time to time, could not be fully discerned by those sitting in upper row house seats.
Latymer has been married for two decades to Hilde (Mia Dillon) but previously had an affair with redheaded Carlotta Gray (Gordana Rashovich), who now has a room in the same hotel. Carlotta stops by to visit. We learn that, at one time, Hugo also was involved with a youthful man. Carlotta has her reasons for revealing Hugo's past and she is writing so in a memoir. Formerly Hugo's mistress, Carlotta has plenty, in a sense, on him. One gathers that she did love Hugo and says, "You have irritated me for years and I am determined to put an end to it."
She wants Hugo to allow her to publish what she knows. Not surprisingly, Hugo is initially hesitant. The exchange between Hugo and Carlotta occurs after Hilde has left the room but she does return. Later, when Hilde is back and the three of them converse, the dialogue becomes more stirring and some drama thankfully increases. Throughout, Hugo is bitter, self-serving, and his character does not beg for audience sympathy.
The problem with A Song at Twilight is that, while we know what is happening, realize the conflict between two characters, and understand the reality-basis for the play, rarely does it all catch and hold one's attention. The theme of the play is pertinent, yet character exchanges are not particularly moving. Mark Lamos, directing, does what he can: for example, a couple of sequences (not to be divulged here) featuring actors Bryan Kopp and Paul Willis, Jr., are beautiful.
Noël Coward was a versatile actor, singer, and writer who, through earlier plays, provides us with wit, basic comedy, and perceptive looks upon life. He is far too expository in A Song at Twilight. The play evolves as statementrather than song. Perhaps, then, the genre does not work. The playwright has something of significant importance to say about relationships and sexuality and repression. Live theater often actualizes impact, emotional or otherwise, through the art form. The current production lacks just that.
The women acting in the play are quite proficient. Gordana Rashovich, as Carlotta, garners attention throughout and Mia Dillon is a fine and fitting choice to play Hilde.
A Song at Twilight continues at Hartford Stage through March 16, 2014. For tickets, visit www.hartfordstage.org or call (860) 527-5151. It then moves to Westport Country Playhouse (April 29th - May 17th): Call (203) 227-4177 or www.westportplayhouse.org.
- Fred Sokol