Noel Coward’s Hay Fever at Theatre Palisades is a wonderfully delivered comedy of manners. Laughs and folly spring from the situation and well-turned phrases.
At the beginning of a Noel Coward piece you have the words. Those artfully stylized, crafted sentences twisting like a Möbius strip. The utterly clever language of Hay Fever is not easy it’s not—like—you know—how, we—like—speak today. So here is the trick, make Mr. Coward’s smarter, quicker, and contextually deeper dialog just roll of the tongue. The sophistication must be everyday.
Director Michael Worden and producers Martha Hunter and Sherman Wayne and a skillful cast keep their full funny clever promise to present a wholly realized version of this less frequently performed Coward play.
Hay Fever takes us to summer in England, 1924, between the wars. We are going to be guests of the Bliss family for the weekend. The Bliss family has successfully played by their own rules for decades. They are glamourous, funny, attractive, and very put-out with those who do not dare to live as the Bliss’ do. Mother, father, sister, and brother Bliss have each invited new prospective lovers to the estate, without mentioning anything to the other members of the family until minutes before the guests are due to arrive. The whole family is furious with one another and quite prepared to go forward with their schemes.
Once the guests arrive we see just how badly out of their depths they are when in a war of wits against the Blisses. The victims of the Bliss family may complain, however, they stay for the festivities, being lead around by charming fingers under their chins.
Michael Worden moves this ensemble through so many entrances and exits that the energy never drops.
The Bliss family: Yvonne Robertson (Judith), Philip Bartoff (David), Tyler Frost (Simon), and Cassandra Orrantia (Sorel) capture characters who have freedom born of privilege and rapier wits born of competing with one another. The actors portraying the guests and staff, have the challenge of playing appalled attraction while they are moved around like pawns as if one had confused the rules of Chess and Twister.
The whole troupe does a superb job: Anna Carlisle (Myra), Przemek Jaremko (Sandy), Holly Sidell (Jackie), Mark Fields-Davidson (Richard) Martha Hunter (Clara) play off each other honestly while keeping the absurdity of the situation and the humor in sharp relief.
Hay Fever played to a packed and appreciative house the night I saw it. This was a top notch production. Funny and engaging. New to, or familiar with, Coward you will have seen him well-done at the Theatre Palisades. Your reward; that you leave a little more clever…for like a little while.
(Featured Photo by Shari Barrett – l to r: Tyler Frost, Yvonne Robertson, Phil Bartolf, Cassandra Orrantia)
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WHAT: Hay Fever at Theatre Palisades
WHEN: Now through Sunday, February 21, 2016
performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.
Sundays at 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road in Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
HOW: Adults $20, Seniors and Students $18.
For more information or to order tickets,
please call our box office at (310) 454-1970
or visit our website at www.theatrepalisades.org
Free onsite parking is available at the Pierson Playhouse.