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Thoroughly engrossing “A Song At Twilight” glimmers

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"A Song at Twilight"

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Nearing the end of his life celebrated author Sir Hugo Latymer (Bruce Davison) is thrown off his game when a former mistress, actress Carlotta Gray (Sharon Lawrence) pays him an unexpected visit. A lifetime of secrecy and fear have made Latymer acerbic and frequently mean-spirited including to his wife of 20 years Hilde Latymer (Roxanne Hart). It is 1966, one year before Britain decriminalized homosexuality.

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Revelations, recriminations and heart-felt confessions unfold on the exquisite set designed by Tom Buderwritz in the Pasadena Playhouse production of “A Song At Twilight,” Noël Coward’s rarely performed final play. This thoroughly-engrossing show glimmers; for Coward fans it’s a must-see discovery and for audience members unfamiliar with his work this is a wonderful introduction.

At the helm Director Art Manke, who directed last year’s critically-acclaimed production of “Fallen Angels” has achieved another triumph adding “Song” to his list of sublime Coward revivals. His masterful direction is evident throughout the play, but most especially in a heartrending moment near the end of Act II.

“A Song At Twilight” is more drama than comedy, but it is rife with Coward’s literate rapier wit.

Davison in a role first performed by Coward himself in the premiere production reveals Laytmer’s conflict between his outward persona as a bon vivant writer, his carefully constructed protective walls and the vulnerable individual hidden beneath.

Hart is a hoot as Latymer’s very German, long-suffering and fiercely loyal recipient of his verbal barbs.

What a joy to see Lawrence back at the Playhouse. She shines in a riveting and layered performance as a woman from Latymer’s past whose request threatens his comfortable, closeted public life.

Kudos to Zach Bandler as Felix the friendly, attractive waiter at the luxurious Swiss hotel where the action takes place.

As with all good costume design, David Kay Mickelsen’s choices illuminated the characters, especially Carolotta in her “smokin’ hot,” burnt orange sheath dress. Diana Ben-Kiki's stylish mid-60s wig perfectly complimented the dress.

“A Song At Twilight” performs through April 13. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $26 to $72. Call 626-356-7529 or visit the box office during open hours or visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena.

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