Pre-dinner martinis turn into two bottles of champagne, which turn into nightcaps of Benedictine. The alcohol just keeps flowing during Noël Coward’s Fallen Angels, and things get more and more amusing as the play gets looser and zanier.
It doesn’t hurt that Elizabeth Anne Jernigan and particularly, Teresa Spencer, are pretty great at playing tipsy. The pair plays Jane Banbury and Julia Sterroll, respectively, two upper-class London women settling into the five-year mark of their marriages, and it’s clear there aren’t a lot of fireworks at this point. Jane, in fact, declares, quite matter-of-factly to her husband Fred (John Stange), that while they may not love each other, they’re no longer in love; he’s offended by the categorization, but doesn’t really dispute the thrust of her argument.
closes April 7, 2019
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Fred and Willy (James Finley), who make for quite the milquetoast pair off for a weekend away to golf, which leaves the girlfriends to ponder the pending arrival of Maurice, the stereotypical image of a dashing Frenchman that both were in love with prior to the marriages. It’s unclear exactly why Maurice has picked now to come back on the scene, but the two women work themselves up into a veritable frenzy at the prospect of his arrival, first vowing to flee London to escape temptation, but eventually deciding to stay on the scene to face him together. Enter champagne. And Benedictine. And martinis.
Fallen Angels was controversial back in the 1920s, even catching the attention of the censors, for (gasp!) implying that women might dare contemplate infidelity. It’s hard not to get a little rage-y when the husbands get huffy over being confronted with the fact that their wives had any sort of romantic past before them. (“Well, we couldn’t be faithful to you before we met, could we?” counters Jane, satisfyingly). Coward’s play today feels less daring for its sexual mores, and more contemporary for putting the two women at the center of the action, and keeping the less interesting men largely in the background. NextStop, for its part, has appropriately stacked its production with skilled women handling everything from direction (Abigail Isaac Fine) to costumes (Moyenda Kulemaka) to scene design (Emily Lotz). Also around to keep things interesting: Lorraine Magee as Saunders, a scene-stealing maid with an answer for everything.
If anything’s anticlimactic in Fallen Angels, it’s the actual arrival of Maurice (Robert Pike), who’s a little more interesting as a plot device than as the walking cliche he turns out to be — though it is fun to see how his appearance befuddles the returned husbands. Romantic complications can make for festive hijinks in Fallen Angels, but some of us are just here for the sheer delight of watching two close friends getting buzzed and silly.
Fallen Angels. Written by Noël Coward. Directed by Abigail Isaac Fine. With Teresa Spencer, Elizabeth Anne Jernigan, John Stange, James Finley, Lorraine Magee, and Robert Pike. Scenic Design: Emily Lotz; Costume design: Moyenda Kulemeka; Lighting Design: James Morrison; Sound Design: Reid May; Properties Design: Alex Wade. Assistant Director: Hollyann Bucci. Dialect Coach: Teresa Spencer. Scenic Painters: Claire Turner, Cathy Reider, Suzy Alden. Master Electrician: Jonathan Abolins. Stage Manager: Nicholas J Goodman. Assistant Stage Managers: Hollyann Bucci, Marilyn Lopes, Kate York. Produced by NextStop Theatre Company. Reviewed by Missy Frederick.