Although “Fallen Angels” is one of the great Noël Coward’s slighter plays, it’s full of his typical drollery, wit and irreverence. Peter Amster’s lively direction, an extremely talented cast, a stupendous set and elegant, detailed costume design combine to make it one of the most enjoyable productions of the season.
Written in the 1920s, the play was considered outrageous in its frank admission of premarital sex on the part of two high-society housewives, who unwittingly shared the same lover. The plot hinges on the imminent arrival of suave, debonnaire Frenchman-in-question, Maurice Dudos, mustache and all, charmingly, if all too briefly, played by David Breitbarth.
The two female leads, brilliantly played by Kate Hampton, as Julia Sterroll, and Hillary Clemens, as Jane Banbury, provide a crescendo of farcical scenes to a script loaded with innuendo and sly winks. The pair of old friends begins by pointing out that their five-year marriages, although comfortable and certainly necessary to their station in life, have become, well, “a little gauche,” and they’re “in love in a different way now.”
Their husbands, played with a perfect balance of the usual male oblivion and just a touch of “see here, now,” are delightfully played by Jason Bradley, as Fred Sterroll, and Andrew Carter, as Will Banbury.
Added to this mix is an eccentric maid, who was actually an afterthought by Coward to liven up the frenetic goings-on and, many argue, a device to contrast the worthiness of the working class compared to the privileged class. Carolyn Michel stands out hilariously in this role, as Saunders, who’s been everywhere and done everything.
The set, designed by Robert Mark Morgan, is an art deco dream of ornate woodwork and expensive, period, molded-glass sconces. Virgil Johnson’s costume design is delicious, from the purple and pink cocktail gowns and matching flapper headgear, to the T-strap silver-and-gold shoes.
Much effort on the part of Patricia Delorey, voice and dialect coach, went into the achievement of perfect upper-crust British accents. “Fallen Angels” opened March 9, at the Asolo Repertory Theatre.
IF YOU GO
“Fallen Angels” runs through May 13, at the Mertz Theatre. Tickets are $28 to $74. Call 351-8000.