THEATER REVIEW: ‘Fallen Angels’ rises to the occasion in Ghent

“Fallen Angels” / Ghent Playhouse

“IF LOVE WERE ALL,” sings the man. It sounds like the voice of Noël Coward himself performing the Coward songs that are sprinkled throughout Kate Gulliver’s production of “Fallen Angels.” (He wrote that song in his twenties–around the time he put together “Fallen Angels.”)

Coward taught lots of us what little we know about surface elegance, how to hold a champagne glass, look sophisticated while lighting a cigarette, and how to create an Art Deco living room.

For the set, Sam Reilly has created a black, white and gray room with impact–well, mostly: dramatic black ceiling, walls in shades-of-gray (no, not that many), white crown molding, and a tall stand of diaphanous white sheers. Fabrics with geometric patterns and shiny-edged side tables are right. Period lovely. The “mostly” part is a dingy sofa and a carelessly slipcovered chair. The latter, placed center stage, has enough white in the pattern to gobble up lots of light into its wrinkles.

In one scene Joanne Maurer has followed Reilly’s lead, dressing one of her ladies in beautiful beaded gray and the other in fringy black. In the gray set, the effect is stunning. In other scenes, two unflattering dresses appear (one red and one turquoise). They look distressingly like polyester, of which there wasn’t any in the 1920s.

The ladies each have an attractive husband, played well by Mark Carway and Mark Fingar (cozy and huggable in their knickerbockers.) After five years of marriage, however, the men seem more interested in golf than wives, so perhaps it is understandable that Julia (Cathy Lee-Visscher) and Jane (Christina Reeves) are now getting champagne-drunk while excitedly, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a former lover–of both of them.

As usual, Lee-Visscher nails her character. She seems incapable of doing otherwise. Newcomer to the Ghent stable is the Vogue-gorgeous Reeves, who surprisingly seems less than comfortable maneuvering around in her body. Still, the two women connect abundantly, which is important, as they are most of the play.

As the piano-playing, French-speaking, hangover-fixing maid-of-all-intellects, Kathy Marin Wohlfeld scores. In her first entrance, there is a bit too much “showing” and not enough “being,” but very soon she eases into this delicious personage. Wohlfeld’s comedic gifts have been obvious for years–even in small parts. She inhabits this big one nicely.

By the time the long-awaited former lover arrives, we in the audience are more than ready for a dapper, sexy Mark Wilson as Maurice Duclos.

It is both cheeky and improbable that a lover spouts advice to husbands, but Wilson brings it off winningly.

Ah. “If Love Were All.” And it is. (Okay. Okay. It’s third after food and shelter.)

“Fallen Angels” plays through October 26.

 

 

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