Present Laughter

Escaping to Present Laughter

Noel Coward's escapist comedy gets a deft and funny turn in Lakewood Theater's period-smart production


As Cole Porter once told us, “Anything goes.” The English entertainer Noel Coward agreed with him, wearing silk polka-dot dressing gowns at all hours, constantly thrusting out his long pencil-thin cigarette holder, and dishing out similar quotes with abandon.

Coward’s comedy Present Laughter, directed by Don Alder and playing through December 13 at Lakewood Theater, is a screwball comedy from an earlier, but not more innocent, age: written in 1939, it was first produced in 1942, as war was raging, and it provided an escape from more sordid realities.

Gary Powell, laughing through present and past. Triumph Photography

Gary Powell, laughing through present and past. Triumph Photography

A different sort of battle is playing out onstage. Garry Essendine (Gary Powell) is a famous actor in the middle of a midlife crisis. His crisis isn’t the one we’re used to reading about in Psychology Today: rather than chasing a younger skirt and buying a convertible, he’s beset by a well-staffed flat whose doors never shut to romantic predators after him. His former wife, butler, maid, and secretary try to keep the seams of his chaotic life together so they can get a paycheck from him. Poor Garry never gets a break. He just wants to nap in his sleeping-mask, but someone’s always finding a way to get next to him. So the outrageous and twisted plot unfolds – anything goes, indeed– and we find ourselves laughing at, and for, Garry.


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