Just-so stories

Noel Coward's Fallen Angels wait for love
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  March 25, 2009

DELICIOUS AGONY Adventure is about to arrive. 

After five years of marriage to their husbands, Londoners Julia and Jane (Julie George-Carlson and Julia Sheridan Langham) find their matrimonial emotions settling into a companionable affection — pleasant and dependable, but no longer full of fireworks. On this particular morning, however, their blithe emotional coasting shifts into edgy turbo-drive: They're expecting the arrival of a certain Frenchman, Maurice DuClos (Jonas Werner, elegantly), the great, reckless love of each woman's life. With their husbands out of the way on the greens, and the savvy maid Saunders (Andre Myles-Hunkin) handy with alcohol and unsought advice, there's plenty of room for neurotic misbehavior as they await their Frenchman in Fallen Angels. Accomplished USM professor William Steele directs Noel Coward's arch three-act comedy, in a taut and sharply appointed production by the Freeport Players.

A woman with a pre-marriage romantic past is something of a scandal among Julia and Jane's upper-class 1920s set, and Freeport Players' production does a smashing job of immersing us in their just-so leisure culture: The flat Julia shares with her husband Fred (Hugh Barton, affably pompous) is understated but luxurious with its bone-colored furniture and Oriental carpets; its crystal sherry decanters, silver serving trays, and lovely antique telephone (Dorothy Glendinning on set design; Jean West and Sam Hunneman on props, all to great effect). The man of the house, Fred, is decorous but assuredly square in his baby blue-and-yellow argyle sweater-vest; his best friend, Jane's husband Willy (Adrian Fox, pompously affable) wears similarly un-suave patchwork pants and golf cap with a big yellow pouf (Julia Doughty and Valerie Tarantino's eloquent costuming). As for the ladies, Julia's Asian silk pajamas and Jane's flapper-styled dresses suggest hankerings for exotics and adventure that are belied by their proper English lives.

So all manner of madness, swooning, and cat-fighting ensues when there is real adventure to be had. The two friends glam themselves up, start in on the gin, and wait for Maurice with increasing desperation. Coward's comedy hangs on the ever-shifting interplay between the two women as they wait, and George-Carlson and Langham are a droll, canny, and dynamic pair. They develop two marvelously distinct characters, and emphasize the contrasts between the women's styles — Julia is prone to fretting and giggly loopiness, Jane more angular and fierce — that highlight both the compatibility and the underlying tension of their friendship. They also superbly delineate the effects of alcohol on head, heart, and loyalties, over the course of a long evening that spans from martinis, through a lot of Champagne (accompanying an exquisite multi-course meal served by Saunders), and finally to Benedictine. George-Carlson and Langham do a fine job sustaining and building the strain of the adventure, even into the third act, when Coward's writing goes a bit slack.

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Related: Review: Easy Virtue, Step right in, Vintage mirth and vintage laughter, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Noel Coward, Noel Coward, Valerie Tarantino,  More more >
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