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Kevin Kline Stars in Noel Coward’s "Present Laughter" at the St. James Theatre
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Kevin Kline Stars in Noel Coward’s "Present Laughter" at the St. James Theatre

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Jordan Roth, Jujamcyn Theaters
et al.

Kevin Kline
Noël Coward’s
Present Laughter
(Present Laughter Website)

At the
St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street

Also Starring:
Kate Burton, Kristine Nielsen, Cobie Smulders
Tedra Millan, Peter Francis James, Reg Rogers
Bhavesh Patel, Ellen Harvey, Matt Bittner, Sandra Shipley

Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel
Scenic Design: David Zinn
Costume Design: Susan Hilferty
Lighting Design: Justin Townsend
Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Hair Design: Josh Marquette
Casting: Telsey + Company
Adam Caldwell, CSA
Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions
Production Stage Manager: James Fitzsimmons
Press: DKC/O&M
Advertising & Marketing: Serino Coyne
General Management: Bespoke Theatricals
Executive Producer: Red Awning/Nicole Kastrinos

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 23, 2017 Matinee

A matinee with a matinee idol, Garry Essendine, who slinks down his studio stairway in silky, smoking jackets and robes. This is a man who loves his beauty sleep and loves sleeping with beauties. His wall mirror is his best friend, and his secretary, a sassy, assertive, witty Gal Friday, is his human calendar. And, on that calendar is Garry’s upcoming tour of Africa, and so much to pack. Although Garry’s wife is absent from this scene, she’s ever on his mind, even as his studio doors shuttle his flirty flings, his pulsating paramours, his frenzied fans, and his manic manager and producer. None other than Kevin Kline is our matinee idol, and he plays Garry with mustachioed panache. Garry’s estranged wife, Liz, is a nurturing, conniving, centered Kate Burton, one who plays the long game and knows how to win. Garry’s latchkey is a character all its own, as young and not so young, heavy breathing ladies seem to have lost their own latchkeys and need Garry’s to gain entrance to the room off the parlor. That room stays busy, with happy ladies waking alone to the smell of fresh coffee, as they re-live the memories of the night before. It’s all Garry can do to remember their names.

The first young lady, Daphne Stillington (Tedra Millan), can’t contain her eager ambition and craving, ordering the help about and looking for her elusive man. The women look great, dolled up in the studio pajamas, as they are poured coffee from a silver carafe. Another lady in need of a latchkey is Joanna Lyppiatt (Cobie Smulders), who’s a perfectly shaped model for costume designer, Susan Hilferty’s 1939 fancy, British attire. Joanna happens to be married to Garry’s producer (Peter Francis James as Henry), and she also happens to be the secret lover of Garry’s manager (Reg Rogers as Morris Dixon). To paraphrase, tempers eventually fly, as “hell hath no fury like a man scorned”, and Garry almost loses his business organizer and financial backing. A stray character that presents some cringeworthy repetitions, that is, shaking hands till they weaken, is Roland Maule (Bhavesh Patel), a wannabee playwright who annoyingly stalks Garry with overwrought aggression. Hired help are Helen Harvey as Miss Erickson and Matt Bittner as Fred. Kristine Nielsen, who plays Monica Reed, Garry’s dedicated secretary, is worth, on her own, attending this enjoyable play. Her vaudevillian timing, facial gestures, posture, and wit are riveting. The final character, Lady Saltburn (Sandra Shipley), has a spotlight late in the play.

Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Director, keeps the action seamlessly fluid, not as frantic as a Feydeau farce, but cheerfully bubbly like fine champagne. Languorous pauses abound, as well, such as in the scene for Joanna’s seduction of Garry on the velvety couch. That couch is thanks to David Zinn’s detailed scenic design, with paintings, and trophies, and goblets, and flasks. As noted, Ms. Hilferty’s classy costumes draw the eye, the ladies’ pleated suits and plush pajamas, as well as Joanna’s sexy outfits designed for seduction. Garry’s robes, jackets, and suits are stunning. Justin Townsend’s lighting is warm and vibrant, and Fitz Patton’s sound allows the audience to listen in to murmured asides. Josh Marquette outdid himself in uniquely refined wigs and hairstyling for these eclectic characters. Kudos to Noël Coward, who originally played Garry Essendine, himself. What a matinee that must have been.

Kristine Nielsen, Kate Burton, and Kevin Kline
in Noel Coward's "Present Laughter"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Kate Burton and Kevin Kline
in Noel Coward's "Present Laughter"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

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