Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
The Art of Comedy: The sheer delight of “Fallen Angels” at the Pasadena Playhouse
We all need a good laugh. Indeed, who among us does not appreciate performers with expert comic timing. Anyone who has ever told a joke knows how much even good material can suffer if the timing is off, and how much even vapid material can be enhanced by someone who, in common parlance, tells a joke well.
And when you are dealing with world-class wit – a script by Noel Coward – then the addition of beautifully executed performances can become a wondrous thing. As example, please see “Fallen Angels,” now at the Pasadena Playhouse. At its least it is a charming send-up of stuffy society marriages. At its best it contains some of the funniest moments of physical comedy I’ve seen onstage in some time.
It is the 1920s. Julia Sterroll and her longtime best friend Jane Banbury have successful, if not blissful marriages to substantial, if stolid men. When both husbands leave on a golf trip, the two women would be fine doing things together, until they each receive word that the Frenchman each in turn had a premarital affair with is about to arrive in London. Anticipation and dread fill the air, as each woman deals with long-squelched passions, mixed as they are with their mutual jealousies and their foundational friendship.
As the two women wait for their old love’s arrival they almost unintentionally drift into a champagne-based alcoholic haze. Never has drunkeness been so funny, if only because both characters are essential ladies in spite of all. Pamela J. Gray and Katie MacNichol, as Julia and Jane respectively, have that rare ability for a physical comedy just at the edge of being over-the-top: hysterical but not ridiculous.
Added to this, Mary-Pat Green proves a delight playing their overly qualified but somewhat detached maid, an observer marking the silliness and adding to the household upheavals. Loren Lester and Mike Ryan offer up the staunchly practical, comparatively puritan husbands who are forced by the end to see their wives in somewhat different light. Elijah Alexander is briefly but flamboyantly the awaited French lover.
Still, it is Gray and MacNichol who rule this piece. Under the deft hand of director Art Manke, who lets them fill the room always with just enough held back, their actions leave the audience helpless with laughter even as the crisp Coward dialogue propels them forward.
Tom Buderwitz has created a flashy Victorian flat, with lovely period detail, for this romp to live in. David K. Mickelsen’s costuming – particularly MacNichol’s very period evening dress – not only add to the comedy but provide some rather humorous statements about that period’s fashions as well.
“Fallen Angels” is not profound, nor was it intended to be. It is, rather, a chance to see great, silly comedy done with remarkable expertise. And what a treat that can be: something very funny done very well by the very expert. Get tickets before they disappear, as word of this delight is certain to spread quickly.
What: “Fallen Angels” When: Through February 24, 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays Where: Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave. in Pasadena How Much: $32 – $62, with premium seating available for $100 Info: (626) 356-7529 or http://www.Pasadena Playhouse.org