Why do we look back upon the past? Wistfulness for youth, a time of less complexity and responsibility, is the obvious answer. Oftentimes it doesn’t need to have been from one’s childhood; sometimes there is a moment, a singular sensation that cannot be recreated. As fond as memories such as these may be they can be dangerous if mishandled. Reminiscence acts as an opiate for one, easing the mind with thoughts of past joys. It’s comforting in small doses, but one must beware not to ruminate on the past too much lest they find themselves sinking in the quagmire of nostalgia. The pleasures of the present shall pale in comparison to the idealized vision we have crafted of the past. It’s for this reason that, should the past come back to find any of us, we must consider the consequences of our nostalgia, for good or for ill.
Fallen Angels is Noël Coward’s 1925 comedy following lifelong friends, Julia Sterroll and Jane Banbury, as they receive word that their mutual former lover, Maurice, is arriving in town and wishes to see them. With their husbands away on a golf trip, both women hope to rekindle the passion of their premarital trysts and a fragment of their youth. Yet anticipation quickly leads to tension between the friends as they vie for the Frenchman’s affections.
Naturally the focus of the production is on Julia (Rebecca Robinson) and Jane (Emily Erington) as they dominate the stage for a significant portion of the show. Both women hold their own as polite, “aggressively British” (as Julia refers to her friends and neighbors) women, as well as a pair of mischievous friends plotting something scandalous. Perhaps this is a result of the era in which the play was written, but both characters spoke with a similar sentiments and beliefs. The differing factors to be found between them came from Robinson and Erington’s performances, Robinson being generally more uplifting, hopeful, optimistic, and smiley than Erington, who came off as timid, weary, nervous, and biting. The duo work well together as friends, but their worries about the scenario often came off as trifling rather than showing true concern. Alongside Robinson and Erington was Katherine Schroeder portraying Saunders, the Sterroll’s new maid. As the smartest, most talented, and worldly character in the show (as is often reiterated for the sake of a joke), Schroeder provides some deadpan humor to break up the synergy between Robinson and Erington. In a production in which most of the cast are animated, classy Brits, Schroeder added a nice mix-up to the onstage conversations and humor. Supporting the cast were Michael Costilla and Daniel Rice as husbands Fred and William respectively. Much like their spouses both men carry with them a lifestyle similar to one another. Neither man gave an excellent performance, but considering the size of their roles (considering their time onstage as well as their being used as comedic foils for the romantic pasts of their wives) they fit in to the aggressively British model quite nicely. Lastly there is the infamous Frenchman, Maurice Duclos (TJ Moreno) around whom all of the drama is based. I won’t ruin his entrance for you, but, suffice it to say, Moreno’s arrival did not disappoint the heaps of build-up he received.
Taking place “in the drawing-dining room of the Sterroll’s flat in London” in the 1920’s, Fallen Angels’ set, designed by Ann Marie Gordon, depicts an era-appropriate fusion of upscale British class and Far Eastern décor (i.e. Oriental rugs and vases) that create at once the feel of a refined, traditional, classical home as well as an alternative, newer, and edgier vibe that seeks to abandon the doldrums of upscale living. The space is open enough for production, most of which involves only two or three actors onstage at once, but could feel a little cluttered when the majority of the cast was onstage. The thrust stage of Trinity’s blackbox theater allows for plenty of immersion and proximity for the audience, yet the need to block for the audiences covering three sides of the stage created occasional viewing problems, particularly near the end in which the downstage actors covered those upstage from view. Furthermore, it was a curious choice on director Norman Blumensaadt’s part to have characters exit through the audience twice during the show. I only find this choice concerning because every other entrance or exit during the production was through the upstage hallway (stageleft for entering/exiting the flat and stageright to go further inside). With how often the “walls” of the stage were used as the confines of the dining-drawing room were used as walls or windows it broke immersion a bit too suddenly see characters walk right off the stage. Though when it’s all said and done my biggest concern with the production was that characters rarely seemed to be truly invested or concerned about the situation. I understand that much of this is a result of Coaward’s writing and era, as well as the monotony of upscale British living used to contrast the passions of the past, but it often created a dry tone of individuals merely inconvenienced by the events rather than concerning them.
Fallen Angels is a fun production. It will certainly elicit some good laughs out of you and leave you smiling. It’s not a heavy piece of theatre, which we all need every now and then, but is sure to serve you in its own right. I recommend it to anyone
Different Stages’ Fallen Angels continues playing at the Trinity Street Players every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm and every Sunday at 3pm until January 30th.