AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Noël Coward
Directed by Robert Kelley
Presented by TheatreWorks
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA / (650) 463-1960

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Not many actors can get away with the style of comic acting seen in TheatreWorks' production of Noël Coward's "Fallen Angels," but Rebecca Dines and her colleagues do so with hilarious results.

Cannily directed by Robert Kelley, the play is set in a dining-drawing room of a London flat in the fall of 1927. The plot concerns two complacently married women, friends since girlhood, who had passionate flings with the same Frenchman before they were married.

They haven't seen him in the intervening years, but he has told them that he's in London and wants to see them. This news sets them both aflame, but they don't want to jeopardize their upper middle class marriages.

Dines plays Jane Banbury, married to Willy Banbury (Cassidy Brown). Her friend is Julia Sterroll (Sarah Overman), married to Fred Sterroll (Mark Anderson Phillips). While the stodgy husbands go golfing, Jane visits Julia, and the two talk and talk.

They also drink and drink, getting quite drunk while waiting to hear from their former lover, Maurice Duclos (Aldo Billingslea). The drunker they get, the more physical their comedy becomes, with Dines seemingly able to move her body and face any way she wants. Overman's reactions are more subtle but humorous nonetheless.

Occasional witness to their goings-on is Tory Ross as Saunders, the Sterrolls' new maid. Usually deadpan and discreet, she's a fount of knowledge from her varied past experiences. She also sings well.

"Fallen Angels" is one of Coward's earliest plays, written he was only 24. It lacks the depth, bite and polish of many of his later works. Nevertheless, it reflects the changes taking place in English society as women begin to break free from the Victorian strictures that had defined their roles for so long.

Besides the skilled cast, this production features a handsomely tasteful set by J.B. Wilson. Fumiko Bielefeldt , designer of the elegant costumes, says she adopted French fashion for the women and British country style for the men.

Lighting is by Steven B. Mannshardt with sound by Cliff Caruthers. William Liberatore serves as vocal coach and pianist.

Running more than two hours with one intermission, the play is talky and the plot is thin, but this production succeeds because of Kelley's direction and some superb acting.

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