Laughter is present at this show

Posted 1/13/12

The legendary Noel Coward — playwright, actor, director, writer and wry observer of the scene wherever he was — not only made fun of many of his …

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Laughter is present at this show


The legendary Noel Coward — playwright, actor, director, writer and wry observer of the scene wherever he was — not only made fun of many of his contemporaries, but also of himself. “Present Laughter,” with the main character modeled on himself, was written in 1939 and opened in London in 1942, offering a much-needed chuckle to a war-weary world.

His exceptional command of the English language made his plays glow.

Elegantly attired in silk dressing gowns and silk pajamas, Coward played the lead in this piece about a matinee idol, one Gary Essendine, who operates in a continual state of stress over the women who flock to him, a projected trip to Africa for six weeks’ performances, a wannabe playwright who hovers with a script.

His frequent response is to go into a scene from some play — frequently followed by citation of act and title.

“Present Laughter” by Coward plays through Feb. 12 at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, directed by Richard Pegg, of Highlands Ranch, who learned his theater crafts as he grew up in the United Kingdom.

He has moved the setting to the 1980s, backed up by really handsome costumes by Ann Piano.

The picture of characters who inhabit the stage scene circling around the star, including managers, groupies, an efficient and funny secretary, a really strange playwright whose “works are not for the commercial stage” and a practical ex-wife, would pretty much have the same dynamics as they would in the 1920s and 1930s. And Pegg keeps the pace up with one situation after another — sometimes more than one at a time.

Pegg also designed the set — Essendine’s elegant apartment, equipped with various doors for chases and slamming action.

Lights go up on a melodramatic Daphne (Kelly Reeves), clad in Essendine’s silk pajamas, luxuriating in the thought of her night with the star. She manages to extract some coffee from houseman Fred (Jack Wefso). Practical and pregnant secretary Monica (Haley Johnson) appears for work and is obviously thinking, “not another one.”

Essendine (Chris Bleau) makes an appearance through the double doors to his bedroom, where we glimpse a portrait of him. Bleary, he tries to recall who this adoring creature is. Bleau (who by day is a fifth-grade teacher in Parker) looks young for this role, but carries it off well, with the expected mixture of drama and frenzy.

Pegg has orchestrated the ongoing craziness with precision.

The actor’s retinue continues to appear, including smooth, together ex-wife/manager Liz (Adrian Egolf); would-be playwright Roland Maul, a memorably goofy character created by Christian Mast; agent Morris (Tim McGrath) and producer Hugo (David Blumenstock); brisk Russian maid Miss Erickson (Erica Johnson). Glamorous southern U.S. product Joanna (Rachel Bouchard) is married to Hugo, mistress to Morris and on the make for Essendine.

The audience as well as Essendine, is challenged to keep track through three acts, interspersed with music by Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and lighting throughout is consistently well thought out.

All in all, an entertaining way to spend an evening, which may call for a glass of champagne to fit the mood.

Miner’s Alley Playhouse is at 1224 Washington St., in old downtown Golden. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 12 (2 p.m. only on Feb. 12. Tickets: $19 to $26. 303-935-3044.


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