On Wednesday night we headed over to The Pasadena Playhouse for a Preview performance of their new production of Fallen Angels, a comedy farce written by Noel Coward and originally performed in London in 1925. We found street parking a few blocks away and had an easy walk over on this mildly chilly January evening. The Pasadena Playhouse is a lovely historic theater in Pasadena that dates back to the 1920s, with Spanish style architecture and open front courtyard. Our seats were in row F on the left side of the Orchestra, which ended up being quite nice, and even nicer – the play started exactly on time (unlike most of the plays I see in theaters around L.A. these days).
The play takes place in the drawing/dining room of a London flat, circa 1920s, and centers around two best friends, Julia and Jane, who – while their hubbys are off to Chichester for a weekend golf holiday – receive word from a lover of yesteryear that he is coming to London to visit. Seems before they were married, both Julia and Jane had an affair with Frenchman “Maurice” (who I gather is a bit of a French bounder), and now – bored with marriage as they face the five-year itch – anxiously anticipate his arrival. Maurice, though a charmer, apparently was never entirely known for being conscientious or punctual and, after waiting around for him all afternoon, the two women finally decide to start on dinner. And that’s when the fun really begins, as they start with Martini’s and then move on to more and more Champagne as the meal progresses. Maurice has still not arrived and the two gal pals are getting drunker and drunker! And in the middle of it all is the no-nonsense maid, Saunders, who keeps a cool head and is always on hand to dole out tips and good advice based on her wide experiences (seems, somehow, she’s done it all!).
This play features six characters, but the heart of the plot revolves around the three females – and these were the performances I found the strongest. The two lead actresses, Pamela J. Gray who plays Julia, and Katie MacNichol as Jane, were both really good. The characters reminded me in many ways of the two best friends from britcom “Absolutely Fabulous” aka Ab Fab, Eddie and Patsy (mixed with a little “Lucy and Ethel”), especially as the story dives into drunken slapstick. The best friends have husbands who are also best friends, and both pairs seem to prefer the company of their bestie over spouse, this also reminding me of “I Love Lucy”. I must say, the character of the maid “Saunders” as played by actress Mary-Pat Green, in some ways steals the show – well-played and very amusing indeed!
The play all takes place in the one room over basically a 24-hour period. The set was done up quite nicely – featuring a pale blue interior, split level room, with piano and upscale furnishings, and windows in the back reflecting the weather which takes place outside. The period costumes are attractive, with loose flowing evening frocks flapper style, fur boas and Julia in a flare-legged lounger/pantsuit in the opening scene. The stage of this theatre is rather elevated, so we were slightly looking up from where we were sitting, which ended up being fine.
I found this play quite funny and entertaining, with fast-paced, snappy dialogue and comical storyline. Frothy fun the Noel Coward way. Rather a treat!
Website for The Pasadena Playhouse located in Pasadena, California