Playwright Noël Coward must be smiling down from theater heaven right now at the Walnut Street Theatre's perfect production of his seldom seen play, "Fallen Angels" running through May 2nd.
The six person cast is terrific, the timing superb and the direction a dream. Needless to say, the laughs flow like the bottle of champagne our two heroines consume during an hilarious dinner scene where they both become progressively plastered.
The nifty little plot concerns best friends, Julia and Jane who are both happily married to their respective spouses, Fred and Willy. However, five years of married bliss have passed and neither Jane nor Julia are still "in love" with their husbands -- "the thrill has gone". Into this stagnant marital stew postcards arrive to both women from their same old flame, Maurice Duclos. Yes, both friends had great passionate love affairs with the same man, though at different times and in different cities. How both of these women let gorgeous Maurice slip through their fingers is never fully delved into. One must assume that he was never stable marriage material. For Maurice apparently is a continental dreamboat and when he proposes to visit them in London, both Julia and Jane are ready to dump their fuddy-duddy hubbies and run away with him. The brilliance of Coward's play is that all of his characters do what they do for love. They will humiliate themselves, create havoc, lie, dissemble and even wish death upon certain persons all in the pursuit of their ardor. We laugh at their foibles, because in essence we know that it rings true in real life.
Susan Riley Stevens is just artfully hysterical (hysterical as in funny) as the classy Julia - smart wife and prepossessed mistress of her household whose tiara gets kicked off her regal head by the possibility of seeing her ex-flame. Her actorial choices are just divine. Mary Peakes is adorable as the vivacious Jane, who humiliates herself all in the name of love. Greg Wood makes us laugh as the slightly silly, irritated, unsuspecting husband who seems to enjoy his marital status quo and Bill Van Horn is great as Jane's gruff, bulldog like husband who takes his wife for granted. Jennie Eisenhower though a bit overblown, garners a lot of laughs in her small role as Saunders, the maid who has been everywhere and done everything.
For the first two acts, Coward has his characters talk about Maurice without every bringing him onstage. There is such a buildup about this character's arrival that our expectations are quite high. However, we are not disappointed. For not only is Dan Olmstead exceedingly tall (towering over Fred and Willy), but he's dark and handsome as well. Sporting a jaunty French accent with just the right amount of savoir faire he makes us swoon just like Julia and Jane when he kisses their hands upon arrival. (Actually the friends' reaction is more like two titillated teens meeting a "Twilight" star.) But Maurice is more than just eye candy - he's also smart and he bails the girls out of the sinking boat they have set off in so there is a happy ending.
The set by Paul Wonsek is so glamorous that one wants to move in permanently. The antique furniture is exquisite. Though I didn't find all the dresses to be flattering to the actresses, the costume design by Ellis Tillman is period from the tops of the hats to the tips of the toes and the overall effect is wonderful. The golfing outfits for the men were just superb.
Oh, did I mention it was a comedy? Hmm. . . yes, a sophisticated comedy of Noel Coward's that's seldom seen . . .great cast. . . lots of laughs . . . do you think you should go? Don't think twice! Go and enjoy!