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Present Laughter

By: Noel Coward
Director: Scott Elliott
Sets: Derek McLane
Costumes: Ann Roth
Lighting: Brian MacDevitt
Sound: Raymond D. Schilke
Technical Supervision: Neil A. Mazzella
Associate Producer: Jorge Bared
Production Stage Manager: Barnaby Harris
Opened: 11/96 at the Walter Kerr Theater
With: Frank Langella, David Cale, Lisa Emery, Tim Hopper, Allison Janney, Kellie Overbey, Judith Roberts, Steve Ross, Caroline Seymour, Margaret Sophie Stein and Jeff Weiss

Langella's commanding performance is at the heart of this revival of Coward's play. Langella plays the vain and imperious actor Garry Essendine who, while preparing to leave for an extended engagement in Africa, is visited by almost everyone he knows. Phones and doorbells ring, bringing on a cast of characters including Essendine's ex-wife/manager, lawyer, secretary, butler, business partners, an admiring young playwright and a recent one-night stand. Coward's subtle sexuality is brusquely updated in a production filled with nearly constant touching and pawing. Hugs, kisses and caresses abound, not all of them benign. First-time Broadway director Elliott, touted as the brightest of a new generation of theater directors, seems determined to make up for every one of the 57 years since the play was written. Coward wrote lightly and gently; Elliott's interpretation is over the top. Still, there are nice touches, such as cabaret star Ross, who plays the butler and entertains the audience with Coward songs before the show and during intermission. Aside from Langella, only Janney as the ex-wife seems to connect with Coward. Her Liz is the only source of stability and calm in a ruckus of a play.

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