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LETTERS TO EDITOR
Long Island Sound
The company has now decided to combine spreading its wings with a fully mounted production with a homage to the master of light comedy, Noël Coward. With the revival of Coward's Private Lives a big hit in London and now on Broadway, the idea of mounting the never produced Long Island Sound, would seem a most timely decision -- especially since it also features a scene Coward aficionados have dubbed as the "escape from chaos."
Much as I'd like to report that this world premiere is a gem that should never have been put aside by Coward, I'm afraid Barry Day, who helped Coward's long-time friend and able estate administrator Graham Payn write My Life With Noël Coward, should have let this sleeping Coward rest. Simon Jones, TACT's co-artistic director is appropriately at sea as the central and only British character, a writer (a thinly disguised Coward) who, during an American lecture tour, finds himself spending a weekend from Hell at a Long Island estate. However, except for his inevitable "escape from chaos" and an occasional glimmer of Coward's well-known talent to amuse, this comedy which began as a short story entitled "What Mad Pursuit?", is decidedly not of the caliber to make Coward fans out of those new to his work. Coward enthusiasts will want to see it simply because it is Coward.
Barry Day, who is listed as script consultant and apparently unearthed the play from a Swiss bank vault, contributes a page of program notes full of interesting background about similar parties which Coward endured. He tells us that Louise Steinhauser (Cynthia Harris, woefully miscast and misdirected ), Eliot's (Simon Jones) hostess in Long Island Sound was in fact the once well-known Cobina Wright, that the actress played by Julie Halston was a stand-in for Carole Lombard and that singer Grace Moore was the role model for Delphi Harrington's Irene Marlow. But his conclusion about the play's timeliness are open to question. He claims that though times may change, the people milling around the Steinhauser living room are "impervious to it all " and that "everything old is new again." While Day's notes are fun to read, I tend to agree with the following assessment by Graham Payn of why Coward was right to retire the play:
"Long Island Sound suffers from its unsympathetic characters and its single joke, which was too drawn out. . . Most of the characters spend too much of their time putting in their drinks orders, and there is a distinct air of Alice Through the Looking Glass, a weakly Americanized version of Hay Fever, but without the charm."
The production values are adequate. Set designer Troy Hourie takes advantage of the theater's catwalk to create a second story for the Steinhauser mansion.
It's also a pleasure to see such a large cast -- nine TACT regulars plus ten guest actors, including several like Julie Halston and Rebecca Wisocky, whose work I've admired elsewhere. Halston does get to do one of the more amusing cameos, as do TACT members Delphi Harrington and Patricia O'Connell. However, none or the actors or director Scott Alan Evans can overcome the inherent weaknesses of the material. After a while I felt in need of one of the endless cocktails served by Agnes (Suzanna Geraghty) , the maid whose knowing looks are supposed to indicate that she sees through these Gatsbyesque people but only manage to appear awkwardly self-conscious.
For all my quibbles, it's always intriguing to take a second look at a never produced play by a famous writer and to see a small company grow sufficiently to embark on new adventures. For TACT, this adventure with a fully mounted play will be followed by the company's move to its new home at Florence Gould Hall at 59th Street and Madison Avenue.
LINKS TO OTHER COWARD WORKS REVIEWED
Semi-Monde -- another previously unproduced play.
Suite In 2 Keys
Tonight at 8:30 Part A
Tonight at 8:30 Part B
Waiting In The Wings
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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