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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Julia and Jane Get That Old Feeling in
Noël Coward's 1925 Fallen Angels

Also see Bob's review of As You Like It


Ned Noyes, Julie Jesneck, Melissa Miller
and Jeffrey M. Bender

Best friends Julia and Jane have been comfortably married to their husbands for five years. However, today they are in a bit of a tizzy. Maurice Duclos, a suave French charmer with whom each had a brief love affair before her marriage, is visiting London and has asked to visit with both. With their husbands, Fred and Willy, off together for a day of golf, Julia and Jane are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Maurice. The passion has gone out of their marriages, and their libidos have been aroused by the thought of another roll in the hay with Maurice. Julia and Jane reminisce, jealously quarrel, reconcile and quarrel again while getting drunk on champagne.

This goes on through a good part of the first act, and ad infinitum for the entire second act of the minor Noël Coward comedy classic, Fallen Angels, now in revival at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Matters do liven up quite a bit on the morning after (act three) when Maurice and Fred and Willy all show up and the spit hits the fan. Lively with situational comic incident and wittily staged by Matthew Arbour, Fallen Angels here provides the fizzy fun which delivers the pleasing entertainment which displays Noël Coward's "talent to amuse."

Charles Corcoran's attractively stylized art deco apartment sitting room (in the London flat of Julia and Fred) is wallpapered in a soft shade of blue (with ubiquitous white design accents). The furniture fabrics add a soft purple. The costumes by Martha Bromelmeier feature flapper-style dresses for Julia and Jane and three-piece suits for the men which delightfully evoke the roaring twenties. Particularly snappy are Bromelmeier's golfing knickers for Fred and Willy.

Julie Jesneck (Julia) and Melissa Miller (Jane) perform in stylish British comic high dungeon, but, despite some clever dialogue, the length of their disputation along with the interchangeable nature of their roles limit the pleasure which can be derived from their yeoman efforts. In the smaller role of Julia's dull, unromantic Fred, Jeffrey M. Bender displays considerable comedic flair in capturing his pompous anger and foolishness. Ned Noyes is solid but less broadly comic as Jane's similarly huffy Willy. This contrast between Fred and Willy is helpful because these two are as interchangeable as Julia and Jane.

Allison Mackie deftly provides humorous fillip as Julia and Fred's new maid "Saunders" who is maddeningly knowledgeable and well rounded, and not shy about showing it. Mackie gets to sing the Noël Coward song "Je t'aime" which is an integral part of the play's script. Michael Sharon brings an appropriately light touch to the smooth Maurice. In the evening's rushed and shaky final moments, a surprise (for which Coward seems to have failed to provide any underpinning) pulls the rug right out from under us in regard to Maurice's intentions.

Fallen Angels opened in London in 1925. It crossed the Atlantic and was produced on Broadway in 1927. According to Thomas S. Hischak's Broadway Plays and Musicals the critical consensus was that "the nearly plotless play was tiresome and inconsequential." It ran for only 36 performances. However, a 1956 Broadway revival (with Nancy Walker) was well received and ran a remarkable 239 performances. It has not been performed on Broadway since then, but has since been seen in regional and summer theatres.

It is worth noting that Fallen Angels and the activities of Julia and Jane will remind audiences of Lucille Ball and her beloved television series "I Love Lucy." If that sounds good to you, then attending Fallen Angels this July would seem a very good idea.

Fallen Angels continues performances (Evenings: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday 7:30 pm (except 7/28); Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8pm/ Matinees: Saturday, Sunday 2 pm through July 28, 2013, at the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue at Lancaster Road, Madison, New Jersey 07940. Box Office: 973-408-5600; online: www.ShakespeareNJ.org.

Fallen Angels by Noël Coward; directed by Matthew Arbour

Cast
Julia Sterroll…………………………Julie Jesneck
Fred Sterroll……………………Jeffrey M. Bender
Saunders……………………………Allison Mackie
Willy Banbury…………………………..Ned Noyes
Jane Banbury………………...…….Melissa Miller
Maurice Duclos…………………..Michael Sharon


Photo: ©Gerry Goodstein


Be sure to Check the current schedule for theatre in New Jersey


- Bob Rendell



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