In Review

Fallen Angels

3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars - 'Worth a Look'
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Directed by Robert Kelley
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
Review by Cy Ashley Webb

TheatreWorks’ brand new production about what girls do while husbands play golf opened to an enthusiastically appreciative audience who found Noël Coward’s Fallen Angels laugh-aloud funny.

J.B. Wilson’s set showing a 1920’s drawing room was perfectly understated. No lapses into art deco kitsch here. The combination of restraint and warm tones had the effect of drawing you in even before the story started.

Costume Designer Fumiko Bielefeldt exercised the same restraint. Even at their most overwrought, inebriated, and absurd, Jane (Rebecca Dines) and Julia (Sara Overman) are never quite ‘20’s flappers – and that’s a good thing.

This stylistic restraint magnifies the shock appeal of script itself. However bored and mindless Jane and Julia may be, they remain proper upper class matrons. Even the feebleness of their attempt to break out of that role underscores the extremeness of their schemes to reignite an old romance with the Frenchman.

Theater Review: Fallen Angels - TheatreWorks
Sarah Overman and Rebecca Dines are two wives whooping it up in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s production of Noël Coward’s Fallen Angels playing June 3 – 28 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Every design decision, every directorial decision, and every nuanced accent seemed carefully calculated to emphasize the distance these daft girls go to work up a little unabashed abandon. Even seemingly unrelated acts like who can play the piano more effortlessly go to build that tension. If you want someone who can go from 1 to 100 on the loonymeter, while managing to look drop dead gorgeous with seven sheets to the wind, Sarah Overman is your gal, and Rebecca Dines is right behind her.

The cast delivered such killer performances that this two hour production just flies by.

The play’s teaser reads “a pair of fabulous friends contemplate a reunion with a dashing former flame. But conspiracy soon gives way to rivalry in Noël Coward’s champagne cocktail of a comedy.”

What that really boils down to is a first act in which the ninnies Jane and Julie giggle over a scheme to look up an old flame while their husbands play golf – and a second act in which the two ninnies get plastered while waiting for the old flame to show up. A quick and almost entirely predictable denouement wraps up the affair.

Rebecca Dines and Sarah Overman are two wives whooping it
Rebecca Dines and Sarah Overman are two wives whooping it up.

Counterbalance to the fluff is provided by Tory Ross, as the maid Saunders. While Jane and Julia are off getting googley-eyed and snockered waiting for their Frenchman, my money’s on Saunders for capably running the rest of the world. Ross gives us a Saunders with a personality so huge, she dwarfs everyone else on stage.

Mark Anderson Phillips appears as Fred, Julia’s husband, and Cassidy Brown as Willy Banbury, Jane’s better half. Aldo Billingslea plays the hunky, hunky Frenchman Maurice.

Theater Review: Fallen Angels - TheatreWorks
Julia (Sarah Overman) looks on jealously as Maurice (Aldo Billingslea) pays attention to Jane (Rebecca Dines)

Altogether, the cast delivered such killer performances that this two hour production just flies by. However, the story – which at its most tortured best might be justified as a somewhat odd notion of female sexuality – was predictably tedious.

Fallen Angels (1925) is early Noël Coward, which means that he’s not as arch, not quite the killer stylist he would soon become. Dialogue which would later be delivered with dry rapier wit relies more on shock value here. That it still seems too outré to have ever made it onstage in 1925 speaks to the quality of the writing. However, you couldn’t be blamed for sitting this one out if you’re looking for something more substantial.

Fallen Angels is at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts through June 28th.

All photos: Kevin Berne.

Cy Ashley Webb
Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.