Sunday, October 5, 2008


Waiting in the Wings
by Noel Coward
directed by Charlie Mount
Theatre West
through November 23
Coward would rename his song "Mad About the Cast" were he to see this highest quality production of his late-in-life play Waiting in the Wings. The Wings is a charity home for elderly British actors, in this case actresses, who live out their final years attending midnight matinees and reminiscing about their days of glory on the stage. Remember "Don't Put Your Daughter On The Stage, Mrs. Worthington"? Coward adores, yet loves to dish theatrical people, their talent or lack of it. Perhaps a bit long with three acts, and pardoning some actors for not mastering a sustained British accent, this is otherwise one of the most flawless pieces Theatre West has mounted as of late. It is full of Coward's priceless satirical wit and keen observations of what makes theatre folk tick. And these 'old crows' are lovingly portrayed by Theatre West stalwarts.
Heading the cast as dotty Sarita Myrtle is Betty Garrett who is nothing short of a miracle. Her demented character is luminescent as she quotes Shakespeare and strikes matches (she's a pyromaniac, poor dear!), and she sets the example for every member of the ensemble, who give absolutely FABULOUS performances, ALL! Magda Harout as obstinate May Davenport, Katherine Henryk as classy Lotta Bainbridge, May's arch-rival - and all because of a man, as it turns out - Sandy Tucker delightful as Deirdre O"Malley, who like any Irishman loves to talk and to listen to herself, Dianne Travis as Bonita Belgrave, Layla Galloway as Cora Clarke, Seemah Wilder as Estelle Craven and Phyllis Franklin as Maudie Melrose complete the book of residents. Erin Moore as gitty housekeeper Doreen, Arden Lewis as the crusty head of staff 'Miss Archie', Catherine Natale, the weepy Dora who finds it difficult to part from her companion Lotta, and Corinne Shor as nasty news reporter Zelda Fenwick round out the female portion of the cast. Males include David P. Johnson as dependable staff member Perry Lascoe, Walter Beery as dutiful Osgood Meeker, who, religiously bearing violets, visits a bedridden resident every Sunday, and Donald Moore as Allan Bennet, the son that Lotta has not seen for over thirty years.
Of course, there is death and abundant farewells, but they are never maudlin. Coward's wit will not allow sentimentality. And his humor here is as sharp as a tack. When one actress brags how she used to stop a show, her cohort retorts, "It was the notices that stopped the show." When the reporter questions Sarita about the residence, "Is it a nice house?" Sarita tosses back jubilantly "Capacity!" There is some grande singing and even an Irish jig. We may be reminded that life is short, but Wings is a joyful celebration of living from start to finish.
Charlie Mount's direction has a quick and consistently uplifting pace and the set by Jeff G. Rack and costumes by Daniella Cartun are scrumptious to behold. The ladies' Christmas Eve dresses are especially gorgeous.
5 out of 5 stars
POST NOTE: This is the third consecutive year that Southern California audiences have been treated to an outstanding Noel Coward production. In 2006 it was the musical revue A Marvelous Party at the Laguna Playhouse, in 2007, Tonight at 8:30 at the Antaeus Company in North Hollywood and now in 2008, Waiting in the Wings. How lucky can we get!


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