Last week I was graced with the opportunity to witness Kevin Kline once again on the NYC stage. I had seen him in several Shakespeare plays at the Delacorte, but seeing him play Garry Essendine in Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter” was a treat like none other. Merely witnessing his comedic skill for 2-1/2 hours is worthwhile, so the fact that the production is excellent makes it even more so.
“Present Laughter” is simply pure joy.The play takes place over the course of four scenes in two acts covering roughly 10 days as Garry prepares to leave London to tour Africa with six plays in repertory. Garry is a West End actor living in London. He’s aging; he’s a womanizer; he’s clumsy; he’s flaky; but he’s quite lovable. His apartment is filled with antiques and paintings and he has employees and friends going in and out at all times, often too much for his own liking. They include his secretary, Monica Reed (played by Kristine Nielsen), and his wife, Liz (played by Kate Burton), who he is estranged from but also best friends with; and his close friends and professional associates, Henry Lyppiatt (played by Peter Francis James) and Morris Dixon (played by Reg Rogers). There are also one-night stands and women who are infatuated with him, like Daphne (played by Tedra Millan), aspiring playwrights like Roland Maule (played by Bhavesh Pate) and the wife of his friend Henry (played by Cobie Smulders). It’s truly a splendid ensemble, so very classy. They are group of true thespians and they are so very funny.
But it’s Kline’s comedic expertise and skill that guides them. “I’m always acting, watching myself go by,” he says to Daphne, and watching him is all the audience member can do. Well, it’s all I could do.
Mortiz von Stuelpnagel directs; David Zinn designed the set; the costumes are by Susan Hilferty. The result is a collective effort to bring back a classic play and they pull it off.
See “Present Laughter” soon. It must end in July. Tickets can be found here: http://www.laughteronbroadway.com.
Disclosure: I was given tickets to facilitate this review and another on New York Family (stay tuned for that), but all opinions are my own.