News Ticker

Fallen Angels

Sober and elegant production of Noel Coward's 1925 play with its famous drunk scene.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Elizabeth Hayden and Jenny Tucker in a scene from Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels” at the Bernie Wohl Center at the Goddard Riverside Community Center (Photo credit: Bob Johnson)

[avatar user=”Victor Gluck” size=”96″ align=”left”] Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief[/avatar]

Noel Coward’s drawing room comedy Fallen Angel is rarely performed and the reason why is in evidence in the sober and elegant production by Out of the Box Theatre Company on display at the Bernie Wohl Center at the Goddard Riverside Community Center. While the play does not have a great many one liners or witty remarks, it has a famous drunk scene in the play’s middle act which needs to be handled outrageously to make the play work. Unfortunately, David Edwards’ refined and restrained production does not allow the scene to surprise and shock which is what is necessary in this pale comedy of manners.

Julia and Jane are two best friends who have each been happily but complacently married for five years. However, before their marriages they led a much more bohemian life style: they both had an affair with the same charming Frenchman while living in Europe, but have not seen him since their breakups or their marriages. When they both get postcards informing them that Maurice Duclos is coming to London and is planning on looking them up, they panic. What if their husbands find out and, worse still, what if they are seduced all over again and want to run off with him?

Zoé Badovinac, Elizabeth Hayden and Jenny Tucker in a scene from Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels” at the Bernie Wohl Center at the Goddard Riverside Community Center (Photo credit: Bob Johnson)

Conveniently, the husbands have a golf weekend a distance away and will be out of town for two days. The women meet at Julia’s home for dinner and while waiting for Maurice’s visit get roaringly drunk. This leads to all sorts of complications which even involves their husbands who both return home early having had a fight. It is left to Maurice to get the two women out of their predicament when he arrives after their husbands return but not before the women have spilled the beans in revenge on each other.

The problem with the play is that it has a one joke plot, simply what will happen when Maurice appears – if he does. The play runs out of steam very early on. However, if the drunken scene is played as over the top it will generate the comedy that the play doesn’t offer. Unfortunately, accomplished actresses Elizabeth Hayden as Julia and Jenny Tucker as Jane have been directed to remain two upper-class matrons throughout. Neither of them seem drunk enough to cause the chaos that ensues. Otherwise, the acting is of a high caliber though the play peaks much too soon.

Jenny Tucker, Jeffrey Hardy, Jeffery Passero and Elizabeth Hayden in a scene from Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels” at the Bernie Wohl Center at the Goddard Riverside Community Center (Photo credit: Bob Johnson)

Both actresses are deft at repartee and upper class manners though the play doesn’t give them enough to do. As their phlegmatic husbands, Jeffery Passero as Julia’s Fred and Jeffrey Hardy as Jane’s Willy are fine as men who have been allowed to become complacent and trust their wives implicitly. Zoé Badovinac has some amusing moments as Julia’s new maid but her lines suggest that she should get a good deal more mileage out of their humor. As the oft spoken-of lover who does not appear until the third act, Tony Javed does not disappoint as the suave and charming Frenchman.

Harlan D. Penn’s extremely elegant decor sets the tone for these well-heeled characters. Julia’s sitting room where the play takes place is furnished with lovely all wood furniture, pale green walls and museum quality prints. The 192d0’s costumes by Omar Sama’ey are quite beautiful giving Julia three changes of outfit and Jane two. Their second act gowns in rose and cranberry suggest the passion the women are supposed to be feeling for their one time love. Zack Dornfeld’s sound design is filled with doorbell chimes and sudden phone calls which punctuate the action. Stephen D. Cornelius’ lighting is unchangingly bright for this expensive London flat.

Tony Javed, Jeffrey Hardy and Jenny Tucker in a scene from Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels” at the Bernie Wohl Center at the Goddard Riverside Community Center (Photo credit: Bob Johnson)

The last Broadway revival of “Fallen Angels” was back in 1956 when the play’s immorality for the 1920’s no longer shocked but was comic in the hands of Nancy Walker and Margaret Phillips. David Edwards’ current production is graceful and stylish. Unfortunately, this play should be played as farce rather than drawing room comedy. As a result, the results are only tepid when they might have been hilarious.

Fallen Angels (June 7 – 11, 2023)

Out of the Box Theatre Company, Inc.

Bernie Wohl Center at the Goddard Riverside Community Center, 647 Columbus Avenue at 91 Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit http://www.OutOfTheBoxTheatre.com

Running time: one hour and 45 minutes including one intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (995 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.