This is a very enjoyable play by the great playwright, Noel Coward. I’ve always enjoyed his work, especially because he often compared notes with his neighbor, Ian Fleming of the James Bond novels. Of course that is beside the point. It’s very nice to go back and see a classic satirical play of the early 20th century, which is a great bit of fresh air in comparison to many of the more disturbing and racy plays of today.
This is a very good production directed by Michael Lugering filled with great color, savvy blocking, and snappy comic timing. One of these things that this play greatly needs are actors who carry a sense of the 30’s with them as well as that old sense of clean innocence that our country relished at that time. All of these actors certainly accomplish this to a tee. Martin Kildare who plays Elyot comes off so much like Rex Harrison—it is uncanny. He moves, sounds, and has perfected his physical movements so much in the vain of Harrison that you could literally give him facial reconstructive surgery and successfully create a Rex Harrison clone. I must add that he does not create a caricature or an impersonation of Rex Harrison, but merely shows his inspiration in a great way. If he wasn’t inspired by Harrison, I would say that was a great creative accident on his part and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Mary Dolson Kildare (who I just realized must be married to Martin—I highly doubt they’re related by blood) is wonderfully believable as the strong and feverishly wild Amanda. She makes the careful and intelligent choice to not make her character too modern or too sexually aggressive. If she had, the play would have lost this innocent charm I spoke of. It must have been an extra blessing to get a married couple to play a bickering couple on stage since I’m under the belief that some of the best dramatized arguing is always done by actual couples. Allison Gifford and Stephen Crandall both do a very good job keeping up with the Kildares and do an adequate job of showing the conflicts that their wild partners fail to truly realize. Mary Catania shows off her surprising ability to speak completely in fluent French to all the characters throughout the third act. Though I would have to point out that some of the comedy is lost due to the fact where not quite sure what she’s saying, which either was a failure on her part to not universally translate it in her movements and facial expressions or it maybe is just a sign of changing times where it’s harder to laugh at someone who merely does not understand what’s going on and doesn’t speak English. It is however not easy to find an actress capable of speaking completely in fluent, authentic French.
The sets are without a doubt are some of the best I’ve seen at UNLV and are totally convincing as 1930’s art-deco architecture. I was actually surprised to hear an older woman beside me saying to her friend that her mother used to own a radio like the one featured on stage. I was glad to hear that there were a lot of authentic and historically correct props on stage. It was very nice to hear a lot of Noel Coward’s other works in music heard in the play as well as some other classics played on what was supposed to be a record player in later scenes.
All and all, I will say that this was a very excellent effort by UNLV and certainly one of their best productions so far. That might be a premature thing to say since the semester is nowhere to being over, but I can already tell this will be one of the best.