Present Laughter Broadway

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Present Laughter Broadway – Review

Present Laughter is based on the classic comedy play by Noël Coward. Many theater and literature experts have viewed Present Laughter as a thinly-veiled autobiographical tale based on Coward’s own experiences of celebrity. Indeed, the main character is a self-centred matinee star who the audience reluctantly come to adore. To this end, Present Laughter is a particularly effective and promises a good show with the addition of its illustrious cast. With Coward’s signature style and acting by big names Kevin Kline and Cobie Smulders, Present Laughter is an exciting addition to this year’s Broadway line-up.

Present Laughter’s self-obsessed star is Garry Essendine, played by Kline in this reincarnation. The ageing actor is somehow charming and repulsive all at once, situated at the center of a group of adoring friends, family, and fans. Daphne, a young fan of Essendine, finds her way into his house and confronts him adoringly when he stumbles upon her. Her turn as an adorable but essentially unwelcome home intruder is followed by similar intrusions from Essendine’s ex-wife, manager, and various other family members, lovers, friends, and admirers. The overall effect is one of a terribly self-indulgent scoundrel who has to be protected from himself by others.

The effectiveness of Present Laughter lies in what isn’t said. It becomes clear that the people around Essendine are supporting him to keep their places amongst the theatrical elite of the time. This gives Essendine an almost helpless air that evokes sympathy and laughter from the audience. Indeed, Present Laughter is hilarious, interspersing dark humor among scenes about stardom and infidelity. The show promises an exciting run on Broadway that will delight audiences while sweeping them up in Essendine’s wild but somehow pitiable life.

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Theater: St. James Theatre
Duration: TBA
Starring: Kevin Kline, Cobie Smulders, Kate Burton

Present Laughter Broadway – Act I

Daphne Stillington, a young admirer of the actor Garry Essendine, has inveigled herself into the flat and has spent the night there. Garry is still asleep, and while waiting for him to wake, Daphne encounters in turn three employees of Garry, housekeeper (Miss Erikson), valet (Fred), and secretary (Monica). None of them displays any surprise at her presence. Garry finally wakes and with practised smoothness ushers Daphne out.

 

 

Liz Essendine, who left Garry years ago, nevertheless remains part of his tightly-knit ‘family’ along with Monica and his manager, Morris Dixon, and producer, Henry Lyppiatt. Liz tells Garry that she suspects that Morris is having an affair with Henry’s glamorous wife Joanna, and is concerned that this might break up the family. Their discussion is interrupted by the arrival of Roland Maule, an aspiring young playwright from Uckfield, whose play Garry has rashly agreed to critique. Liz leaves, and Roland rapidly becomes obsessively fascinated by Garry, who gets him off the premises as quickly as he can.

Morris and Henry arrive and discuss theatrical business with Garry. Henry leaves for a business trip abroad, and Garry privately interrogates Morris, who denies that he is having an affair with Joanna. Garry telephones Liz to reassure her.

Present Laughter Broadway – Act II

Scene 1, midnight, three days later.
Garry, alone in the flat, answers the doorbell to find Joanna. She claims (like Daphne in Act I) to have forgotten her own doorkey and asks Garry to accommodate her in his spare room. He correctly suspects her motives, but after much skirmishing allows himself to be seduced.

Scene 2, the next morning.
Joanna emerges from the spare room wearing Garry’s pyjamas just as Daphne did in Act I. She too encounters Miss Erikson, Fred, and then Monica, who is horrified at her presence in such compromising circumstances. Liz arrives and puts pressure on Joanna by threatening to tell Morris that Joanna has spent the night with Garry. Joanna retreats to the spare room when the doorbell rings, but the caller is not Morris but Roland Maule, who says he has an appointment with Garry. Monica leads him to an adjacent room to wait for Garry.

Frantic comings and goings follow, with the flustered arrivals and departures of Morris and Henry, Roland’s pursuit of Garry, and the arrival of a Lady Saltburn, to whose niece Garry has promised an audition. The niece turns out to be Daphne Stillington, who recites the same Shelley poem with which he bade her farewell in Act I. Joanna flounces out from the spare room, Daphne faints with horror, Roland is entranced, and Garry is apoplectic.

Present Laughter Broadway – Act III

A week later, on the eve of Garry’s departure on tour in Africa, he is once more alone in the flat. The doorbell rings and Daphne enters saying she has a ticket to sail with him to Africa. The doorbell rings again, and Daphne retreats to an adjoining room. The new caller is Roland, who announces that he too has a ticket for the voyage to Africa. Garry tries to get him to leave, but as the doorbell rings a third time Roland bolts into the spare room and locks the door. The third caller is Joanna, who has also bought a ticket for the Africa voyage and has written a letter to Henry and Morris telling them everything. Liz arrives and saves the tottering situation, announcing that she too is travelling to Africa.

Henry and Morris arrive and berate Garry for his night with Joanna. Garry fights back by revealing the details of Morris and Joanna’s affair, and Henry’s extramarital adventures. Joanna angrily slaps Garry’s face and leaves for good. Her departure goes unnoticed because Garry, Henry and Morris have become embroiled in what for them is a much more serious row when it emerges that Henry and Morris have committed Garry to appear at what he considers a shockingly unsuitable theatre. Garry objects: “I will not play a light French comedy to an auditorium that looks like a Gothic edition of Wembley Stadium.”[18] When that row has blown itself out, it is business as usual and Henry and Morris leave in good humour.

Liz pours Garry a brandy and tells him she is not only going to Africa with him but is coming back to him for good. Garry suddenly remembers Daphne and Roland lurking in the adjoining rooms and tells Liz: “You’re not coming back to me… I’m coming back to you”, and they tiptoe out.[1]
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ST. JAMES THEATRE - NEW YORK, NY