Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

A Song at Twilight
Theatre Rhinoceros
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Sagittarius Ponderosa and The Nether

John Fisher, Tamar Cohn, and Sylvia Kratins
Photo by David Wilson
Theatre Rhinoceros' production of the rarely seen Noël Coward comedy A Song at Twilight ended at Z Below on January 31st. The master wrote this comedy as part of his farewell trilogy called Suite in Three Keys in 1966. It is probably Coward's saddest play, even though it is a comedy. It's a study of an ageing novelist who founded his considerable success upon a lie. Back in 1966, especially in England, the word homosexual was fraught with emotion. At that time a homosexual act was a criminal offense, and probably in some of our southern states as well. Many gay men were frightened by this and they remain closeted. I saw this play in the 1970s in Los Angeles, starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, as part of a presentation of Suite in Three Keys; even then it was something no one talked about.

A Song at Twilight is set in 1966 in a private suite in a luxury hotel in Switzerland where renowned author Sir Hugo Latymer (John Fisher) and his wife Hilde (Tamar Cohn) await the arrival of Carlotta Gray (Sylvia Kratins), an inferior film and stage actress and Latymer's old flame. Carlotta has mysteriously requested an audience with now the aged, ailing author.

Sir Hugo Latymer makes appreciative asides to the handsome waiter (Marvin Peterle Rocha) attending him in his Swiss hotel suite, so you can tell he has the "hots" for this young man. It takes a spiky, uncomfortable dinner with Carlotta before the truth about his past is dragged out into the open. The actress asks permission to publisher his love letters in her autobiography, a request that is met with fierce outrage. She also reveals that she has a set of Hugo's letters to the now dead, male love of his life.

This situation may sound overdramatic, but Coward handled it with melancholy control. Although the play is not the best that Coward wrote, there's enough wittiness and maliciousness in the dialogue to remind one why Coward was such a prevalent playwright in his time. Most of the cutting remarks are given to John Fisher as Latymer, a character that is petulant, arrogant, patronizing, and haunted by his past. It was a tour de force of acting on the part of John Fisher.

Sylvia Kratins did an exceptional job playing Carlotta as a woman who is well aware of her boundaries. The terrific confrontation between Carlotta and Latymer drives most of the play. Carlotta also has some wonderful lines, such as when she tells Sir Hugo, "You're positively stampeding toward the quiet grave." Tamar Cohn was excellent as the German wife of Sir Hugh Hilde who reveals herself to be more than a submissive wife, with a virtuosity for organization. She grows in stature before the audience's eyes, especially in the last scenes. Rounding out the four-member cast was Marvin Peterle Rocha as Felix the waiter. He added a polished touch to the 90-minute comedy.

John Fisher and Gilbert Johnson added an Old World lavishness to the detailed set, while Scarlett Kellum designed marvelous costumes for the cast.

A Song at Twilight closed on January 31, 2016, at Z Below Space. Coming up from Theatre Rhinoceros next will be the West Coast premiere of The Call by Tanya Barfield opening on February 20 and running thru March 12, then another Noël Coward play, Present Laughter, running May 21 through June 19th. Both plays will be done at Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For ticket to those productions call 1-866-811-4111 or visit