Woolfe Street Playhouse’s production of Noel Coward’s Fallen Angels is one that showcases a large amount of talent even if the script is largely outdated; it isn’t too surprising that the play is not often produced and one of Coward’s lesser-known shows. It tells the story of two married women, Julia and Jane, who become flustered when Maurice, a man with whom both women engaged in passionate affairs before their marriage, comes to London for a visit.
Not much really happens in this play, even if the characters want you to believe otherwise. This is likely because the 1925 audience was perhaps more shocked by the “scandalous” affairs these women had before their marriage. The play mostly comprises the two friends arguing over how to handle the situation — both desire Maurice, but do not wish to interrupt their peaceful married lives, even if they’ve become quite mundane. In the opening scene, Julia, played by Liz Duren, informs her husband, Fred (Nat Jones), that though they still love each other, after five years they are no longer in love, noting that being in love requires a passion that has now died. Duren and Jones play off each other extremely well, and this dialogue, which offers some of the script’s few relatable moments, successfully grabs our attention early on because of the actors’ chemistry.
Perhaps the best element of the production is the spot-on comedic blocking, which all of the actors execute perfectly — I don’t think the actual script would be nearly as funny otherwise. This success can likely be attributed to Keely Enright’s role both as Jane and as director. She’s able to show her vision for the show by perfect example. The actors have impeccable chemistry on stage, and it is a pleasure to watch them perform.
However, the play is outdated, and the farcical British humor sometimes falls flat. All characters are extremely over the top, and the actors at times rely too heavily on their accents and exaggerated gestures. In the first of the three acts, the two leading ladies occasionally stumbled over their lines from speaking so fast; however, this issue was mostly resolved as the play carried on. Kathy Summer, who plays the rather bizarre maid, Saunders, stands out as the show’s star with her comedic timing. As the play’s comic relief, she has to be the most extreme, which is quite a challenge since the other actors have already created such amplified characters. Nevertheless, Summers achieves hilarity in her character through both subtlety and extravagant quirkiness.
Overall, Fallen Angels was a safe choice for Woolfe Street’s season opener. You leave the theater not feeling much of anything, but thinking, “Well, that was nice.” The ending was very rushed and unrealistic, though this was a flaw in Coward’s writing and not the production, as were most of the flaws in the show. It seems Woolfe Street did what they could with the material at hand, and though it was not the most ambitious of shows, it was a challenge to overcome an obviously dated and flawed script. The production is not for anyone who wishes to be emotionally or intellectually challenged, but perfect for an audience member who simply wishes for a comedic escape for the night.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.