Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Noël Coward is probably one of Britain's greatest playwrights and it could be said he was the Oscar Wilde of the 20th century. His plays were provocative, with the wit of Wilde and the playfulness of forbidden sex. 1925 was a good year for this talented playwright because he had four shows running concurrently in London's West End and was also starring in his musical The Vortex. His style was copied and envied everywhere.
Fallen Angels is the story of two married ladies whose lover from their single days threatens to visit. The action centers on Julia Sterroll (Sarah Overman) and her best friend of five years Jane Banbury (Rebecca Dines), pining for long lost passion. Both women receive notes announcing the impending arrival of Maurice Duclos (Aldo Billingslea), their mutual premarital lover, just as their respective husbands Willy and Fred (Cassidy Brown and Mark Anderson Phillips ) are leaving together for a golf outing. The wives are torn between their marital duty to their husbands and their desire to relive the wild sex they had with Maurice. Of course, they want to keep their secret from being exposed. What happens next I will not tell. Bottom line is Fallen Angels is about sex as something to be enjoyed, preferably with someone not your husband.
Fallen Angels starts out slow, maybe because Coward wanted to establish the characters and show the boredom of the wives. The high point of the production occurs in the second act in a rollicking scene between Julia and Jane, waiting to hear from Maurice and getting increasingly drunk on bubbly wine and before clashing animatedly. It becomes a raucous slapstick in the second act.
Rebecca Dines and Sarah Overman are outstanding as Jane and Julia. Sarah Overman gives a wonderful over the top performance as a woman who has settled into the routine of a dull marriage, while Rebecca Dines dazzlingly plays Jane, who seems happy in her marriage. But the affair with the Frenchman will come back to haunt her. The men don't fare as well, but only because they play underwritten stock characters. However, Cassidy Brown and Mark Anderson Phillips do as much possible with the one-dimensional Fred and Willy. They come into their own in the third and final act. Aldo Billingslea as Maurice is pitch perfect with a French accent when he appears toward the end of the play. He exhibits an embellished charm and successfully caricatures the sophisticated character.
J.B. Wilson's set gets a thumb up with its art deco furniture, large panels, the ubiquitous cocktail trolley, and a grand piano stage left where the wonderful maid played by Troy Ross plays and beautifully sings two Noël Coward songs. Fumiko Bielefeldt's costumes are perfect for the 1920s in Britain. She has designed suitably tweedy for the guys and gauzy and silky for the women. A special bravo to dialect coach and cultural consultant Richard Newton for giving all of the actors spot-on up-market British accents.
Fallen Angels plays through June 28th, 2015, at Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View. For tickets visit www.theatreworks.org or call 650-463-1960. Coming up next is the world premiere of the new musical Triangle by Curtis Moore, lyrics by Thomas Mizer opening at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto on July 8th and running through August 2nd.