Terrific ensemble acting was without fault at Two Rivers Theatre

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Joey at 4 paws with a cause

show review:

Not one, but two plays by Noel Coward could be seen this summer: Fallen Angels at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at Drew in Madison in July and Present Laughter at Two River Theater Company in Red Bank. Both companies joined forces to present a special package to see both rarities at a reduced price. Many lucky theatergoers jumped at this opportunity. Bravo to them for a great idea which should be continued with other plays produced by both companies.

Written in 1939, Present Laughter was not performed until 1942, with Coward starring as Garry Essendine, a matinee idol of the stage. It is usually viewed as an autobiography of Coward, his inner circle, and his opinions to life in general.

At this June 20th performance, Tony nominees Michael Cumpsty (for End of the Rainbow) and Veanne Cox (for Company) star as famed theater star Gary Essendine and his personal secretary and foil Monica Reed. Joining them was Camille Saviola as Miss Erikson, the eccentric maid. Ms. Saviola created the role of Emma Goldman in Ragtime. Of special interest to our readers, Cole Escola, as Roland Maule, is best known from Logo TV’s Jeffrey & Cole Casserole. Richard Hollis, who played Fred, the Butler, has a distinguished British theater career which includes the film, Dark Shadows. Kaitlin Hopkins, Robin Moseley, Mark Capri, Leighton Bryan, James Riordan and Hayley Treider completed the large cast.

Terrific ensemble acting was the theme of the night. As each character entered, the production went from strength to strength, and never faulted. There was not a single bad performance, and the appreciative audience applauded the performers warmly. One would be hard pressed to find another Miss Erikson who often received applause for her detailed, hilarious characterization as the maid. Mr. Cumpsty shone as the lead. A Scottish burr occasionally became noticeable, although he wasn’t born in Scotland. Kaitlin Hopkins, as Liz Essendine, as the famed actor’s estranged wife, delivered an especially fine performance, nuanced and shaded, well-paced and finely delivered. Hayley Treider, as Daphne Stillington, a seeming lady who spent the night because she said she lost her keys, was appropriately deliquescent. Leighton Bryan, as Joanna Lyppiatt, a femme fatale who was called “dangerous,” looked appropriately dangerous and delicious in an emerald green gown sprayed onto her perfect figure during her seduction of Gary Essendine.

David Lee, the director, is a nine-time Emmy Award winner director, writer, and producer for television. He co-created the shows, Wings and Frasier, which he wrote, produced and directed. He also wrote and was producer for The Jeffersons and Cheers, and often directed episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond. Among many other awards, he has won the Golden Globe, the GLAAD media Award, and the Peabody. His other latest project is Nirvanov, a play in which he conjoins Chekhov’s Ivanov with the life of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.

The play will conclude its run on June 30.

The Two River Theater Company is housed in a beautiful theater built in 2005 in downtown Red Bank. With 350 seats, it is a winner. I look forward to seeing many more evenings at this spectacular theater. For more info visit www.trtc.org.

 

show review:

Not one, but two plays by Noel Coward could be seen this summer: Fallen Angels at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at Drew in Madison in July and Present Laughter at Two River Theater Company in Red Bank. Both companies joined forces to present a special package to see both rarities at a reduced price. Many lucky theatergoers jumped at this opportunity. Bravo to them for a great idea which should be continued with other plays produced by both companies.