The first of the plays, We Were Dancing involves a night at a country club where a married woman has danced with, and subsequently fallen in love with another man. In telling her husband and sister-in-law, the breakdown of the marriage is played out with great humor and strange, dignified reasoning. The dialogue is acutely direct, so it at once feels quite ridiculous and yet also refreshingly honest. It is compelling to see these people speaking so eloquently about something as distressing as the collapse of a marriage and as wildly unusual as love at first sight.
The second play, The Better Half, is set in the bedroom of a well-to-do married couple, where the wife, Alice, accompanied by her friend Marion, is getting ready to go out. It becomes apparent that Marion is in love with Alice’s husband David, and Alice has grown to care very little about David. The second half of the performance involves Alice trying to get her husband to leave her in a number of ways, or at the very least, incite a strong emotional response in him. Long and outrageously clever monologues from Alice probe at the possibilities of the act of love, its raw emotion, and occasional violence.
Both pieces were funny and engaging in their own ways, though The Better Half stood out slightly with Alice’s intense and exciting speeches. The two shows complemented each other in the ways they spoke about marriage and how love can be so ridiculous, it’s worth laughing at. The movement and rhythm of each piece harmonized with the sharpness of dialogue and rhythm of the text. Particularly in We Were Dancing, where the four characters maneuvered around each other seamlessly, quite literally dancing their way through the dialogue. This made the text-heavy performance visually engaging and exciting, bringing the words to life even more, if possible.
The cast worked brilliantly as an ensemble, but it’s hard for Tracey Pickup not to stand out as Alice; her energy and strength onstage was a force to be reckoned with. This did not detract from the other performers who were all highly animated and focused in their characterizations. The design was simple, but effective, all played out on fake grass with the audience handed fans as they entered the theater. The set was manipulated in between the two shows to transform the country club into a master bedroom. This was done splendidly by the cast, who characterized the set change with lively and efficient choreography.
A Naughty Night With Noel Coward is exactly what it promises to be. It’s fun, funny and full of lovers misbehaving. Drawing on the apt and wickedly funny texts of the wonderful Noel Coward, director Jimmy Walters has developed an infectiously funny double bill, which says something honest about love and marriage while allowing the audience to laugh back at it. A very entertaining and humbling evening at the theater.
A Naughty Night With Noel Coward is playing until August 29th, 2015, from Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 pm, Saturday matinee at 2 pm and Sunday matinee at 3 pm.