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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Noël Coward's "Present Laughter"
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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Noël Coward's "Present Laughter"

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Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director

Victor Garber
Present Laughter
(Roundabout Theatre Company Website)

By Noël Coward

Directed by Nicholas Martin

At the
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street

With: Brooks Ashmanskas, Lisa Banes,
Nancy E. Carroll, Alice Duffy, Holley Fain,
Pamela Jane Gray, James Joseph O’Neil,
Richard Poe, Marc Vietor, Harriet Harris

Set Design: Alexander Dodge
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: Rui Rita
Sound Design: Drew Levy
Dialect Coach: Deborah Hecht
Wig Design: Tom Watson
Production Stage Manager: Stephen M. Kaus
Casting: Alaine Alldaffer CSA
Additional Casting: Jim Carnahan, Carrie Gardner
General Manager: Rebecca Habel
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Marketing - Sales Promotions: David B. Steffen
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 28, 2010

Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, set in a 1930’s ornate flat in London, is just what the viewer, weary of reading about every sordid detail of current celebrity scandal and rehab, can relish. We are treated to the elegant, witty, silky smooth Victor Garber, as a retro celebrity British actor, and his harem of star-struck fans, all every bit as elegant and witty; plus, no photos or scandals threaten to surface. In fact, Essendine’s wife, Liz (Lisa Banes), no longer in bed, but still on the phone, is a strong support system, guiding him through the obstacle course of femme fatales, while soothing his ego. His second support system, a sarcastic and caustic secretary, Monica Reed (Harriet Harris), carries letters from adoring fans, swooning in script, begging for attention. Essendine’s strongest support is his own charismatic charm, that sweeps ingénues into his velvet-jacketed arms and envelops his guests with musical ambiance, when at his grand piano.

Victor Garber encompasses the role with seasoned finesse, and he seems thrilled to be Essendine, with a self-satisfied smirk and a bevy of lovers, past and potential. He’s planning a grand tour of Africa, what could be more exciting, and a party ensues with balloons and champagne. There are Feydeau-styled scenes, in and out of closed doors and down a spiral staircase, worthy of revered French farce. Women come and go, some more ingénue than others, the wife and secretary appear and reappear, and a second plot unfolds, involving Joanna (Pamela Jane Gray), wife of his Producer, Henry Lyppiatt (Richard Poe) in her affair with his Assistant, Morris Dixon (Marc Vietor). The early scene stealing ingénue, Daphne Stillington, is played by Holley Fain, an actor who should be watched, with exuberant presence and tightly timed wit.

However, the biggest sensation in the show was Brooks Ashmanskas, as Roland Maule, a determined wannabe, who says he’s a playwright, but seems hysterically enamored of Essendine. Roland unleashes an explosive rant, toward the end of the play, leaping and lunging onto plush furniture, like an inebriated premier danseur. It’s almost impossible to say which was more ornate, Alexander Dodge’s period, plush, stunning set, Jane Greenwood’s silky, velvety, feathery, jewel-bedecked costumes, or Victor Garber’s ornamented, cognac-infused British vocabulary and enunciation. Nicholas Martin worked the script and his talented cast for all they could deliver, and the result was a delightful escape into the lustrous life of Gary Essendine in 1930’s London. Kudos to Noël Coward.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at