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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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
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
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
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
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. www.minersalley.com.
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