Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Present Laughter (The SOB Review)

Present Laughter (The SOB Review) - American Airlines Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, New York City, New York

*1/2 (out of ****)

I was present, so where was the laughter?

Noël Coward's semi-autobiographical play about aging stage star and bon vivant ladies' man Garry Essendine is frequently revived on Broadway and in the West End. Yet in Nicholas Martin's extraordinarily tepid revival, you'd never know why. That's because it's virtually devoid of all humor.

It would appear that Martin's sole focus was in ensuring Alexander Dodge's sumptuous art deco set was the one element of the play to match its appropriate time period. In fact, the scenic design receives the most applause of the evening.

Evidently, that came at the expense of actually directing the ensemble, which is in dire need of being reined in. The entire cast, headed by the normally likeable Victor Garber (Garry), perform as though they're each from different eras acting in completely different shows. As Roland, the incredibly annoying Brooks Ashmanskas takes the cake as the most egregious offender, coming off as a contemporary fanatic. Only Harriet Harris (as Garry's assistant) manages to escape unscathed with dignity intact.

If Martin had actually been present with his assembled actors, then perhaps this Roundabout mess would have been more cohesive and delivered the goods as advertised. Fortunately, as a paying member of the public, I'm now getting the last laugh.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 06 June, 2010, Blogger Helen Smith said...

I love your FTC note.

What a shame about Present Laughter. I saw it at The National (in London) a couple of years ago with Alex Jennings in it. I went with very low expectations and was astonished to find myself laughing all the way through it.

At 06 June, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks Helen. Given how often this play has been revived, my expectations were higher, but I really attribute the poor showing of this staging to a complete lack of direction.


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