A Rare Coward in New Jersey
By TERRY TEACHOUT | The Wall Street Journal
Everybody likes Noël Coward's plays, but everybody does the same ones. "Private Lives" and "Blithe Spirit" get done all the time, "Present Laughter" and "Design for Living" somewhat less often, with "Hay Fever" popping up on occasion. Fine plays all, but it's time for a change, and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has filled the bill with a top-flight revival of "Fallen Angels," which is at least as funny today as it was in 1925.
Julia and Jane (Julie Jesneck and Melissa Miller), the best-friend heroines, are married ladies who find their oh-so-respectable husbands (Jeffrey M. Bender and Ned Noyes) to be a bit on the dull side. According to Julia, this is a good thing: "We're not in love a bit now, you know. . . . It's so uncomfortable—passion." Maybe so, but her conviction is put to the test when Maurice (Michael Sharon), a Pepé Le Pew-type Frenchman with whom both ladies once had premarital flings, pays them a visit after a protracted absence, thereby triggering general mayhem. Click here to read more.
Naughty Wives, Circa 1925: A Review of ‘Fallen Angels’ at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre
By ANITA GATES | The New York Times
“A Girl Scout was molested in Grosvenor Square last night,” Julia Sterroll announces, looking up from the pages of The London Tatler, in the first scene of Noël Coward’s “Fallen Angels,” the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s newest indoor production. “Again?” her husband asks casually. She corrects him in a tone that suggests he is a silly old dear. “Last time it was a Boy Scout.”
So child abuse is played for laughs, while the amorous premarital conduct of the lead characters is the shocking element in “Fallen Angels,” which dared to question the sexual double standard (and lightly, with humor) when George V was still on the throne.
Coward was a mere lad of 25 when “Fallen Angels” opened in London in 1925. His later works — among them “Private Lives,” “Blithe Spirit” and “Design for Living” — are far better known and far more finely honed, but it is a singular treat to see this tale of two naughty wives, which is rarely revived. It may not be the playwright’s supreme accomplishment, but his nascent genius is obvious in at least every third line. Click here to read more.
Fallen Angels opens at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
By RONNI REICH | The Star-Ledger
Just weeks after the closing of Two River Theater Company’s "Present Laughter," the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey offers Garden State theatergoers a second helping of Noël Coward with "Fallen Angels."
But whereas a suave ladies’ man was at the center of the previous show, this time, two women tell their side of the story when it comes to matters of the heart.
Written in 1925, the play opens with Julia Sterroll (Julie Jesneck) musing that while she loves her husband of five years, she no longer feels the violent emotion of being "in love."
At first, that’s fine with her, as she describes passion as "so uncomfortable" and later detachedly tells her friend Jane Banbury (Melissa Miller) about the "stimulating" "psychological romp" she and Fred have had discussing the changes in their relationship. Click here to read more.
'Fallen Angels': A funny farce, courtesy of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
By BOB BROWN | The Princeton Packet
SMART, sassy drawing-room comedies from inter-war England never go out of style — especially when they’re by Noel Coward. Fallen Angels (1925), an early Coward play, shocked sensitive Londoners and outraged some reviewers — as the playwright knew it would.
In notes to the fabulous Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey production, now playing through July 28, Coward is quoted: “Rocks are infinitely more dangerous when they are submerged... Sex being the most important factor of human nature is naturally, and always will be, the fundamental root of good drama.”
The idea of English women having premarital affairs might seem mildly titillating these days, but Coward cranks up the hysterics in his two leading ladies. Directed by STONJ veteran Matthew Arbour, the ensemble is in top form. Click here to read more.
Fallen Angels: A CurtainUp Review
By SIMON SALTZMAN | CurtainUp
The welcoming sign, as one drives onto the campus of Drew University to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, reads "Fallen Angels vintage Noel Coward." It isn't as if all of Coward's plays are not vintage, but this one is more so as it premiered in London in 1925 (starring Tallulah Bankhead) and predates such subsequent Coward successes as Private Lives (1930), Present Laughter (1933) and Blythe Spirit (1941). If not exactly a gem, this rarely revived comedy of manners and mannerisms is a certainly a bauble that glitters in the light (of course with the help of lighting designer Tony Galaska) of Matthew Arbour's bright and breezy direction.
It may take you a while, as it did me, to become receptive to Arbour's approach to the pretentiously prescribed style and the free-wheeling, almost farcical antics. But what could be better on a hot summer evening than to be seduced by a talented ensemble of actors who harbor no fear of going over-the-top whether defining their characters with highly affected mannerisms or deploying the barrage of often nonsensical blather with unapologetic gusto. Click here to read more.
Wild Times Gone By
By ROBERT L. DANIELS | Theatre News
Praise is in order for Bonnie J. Monte, the producing director of The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, for this revival of the rarely produced vintage Noel Cowardcomedy Fallen Angels. Coward designed the naughty lark in his youth to titillate his audience, but the 1925 play was initially met with cries that it was shocking, vulgar and obscene. (The stars were Tallulah Bankhead, who learned the role in four days, replacing the ailing Margaret Bannerman, and Edna Best). It did not fare much better in New York two years later with Estelle Winwood and Fay Bainter.
Times have changed, and the lightweight banter of two bored housewives reflecting on their amorous past is pretty mild stuff now. Coward would perfect his comic art four years later with Private Lives. But make no mistake, on the Garden State stage, the master is still at the top of his game, and director Matthew Arbour has staged the whimsy with an artful sense of outrageous posturing, knockabout gymnastics and a briskly incisive sense of comic timing. He has been blessed with the gifted talents ofJulie Jesneck as Julia and Melissa Miller as her best friend Jane. Click here to read more.
Noël’s “Angels” at STNJ
By SHERRI RASE | QonStage
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s (STNJ) season rolls like the sea with the early Noël Coward play “Fallen Angels.” Shocking in its day, debuting in 1925, it shows two married women getting drunk while awaiting the visit of a man whose favors they had each sampled a handful of years prior while both were unmarried women. Considering the mores of the time, and how much more each wanted from their mutual lover, these women are shocking indeed! This is a comedy of mannerisms more than a comedy of manners.
Julia and Fred Sterroll (Julie Jesneck and Jeffrey M. Bender) have been married for five years. Their best friends, Jane and Willy Banbury (Melissa Miller and Ned Noyes), plan to spend respective men’s and women’s weekends each in their own style. Fred and Willy head off for the Chichester links when Jane drops a bombshell–the man each of the women had an affair with seven years ago has contacted her that he’ll be in town. Moments later, Julie gets her own iconic postcard–each with a locale special to the romances Maurice Duclos had with each! And away we go! Click here to read more.
NJ Shakespeare Theatre Serves Up ‘Fallen Angels; Noel Coward at His Best
By LIZ KEILL | The Alternative Press
Fallen Angels! OMG! LOL! Or any short-cut you can think of defines this hilarious, 1920s farce by Noel Coward.
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is putting on an uproarious production of this frothy, witty play. The plot centers on two couples, Julia and Fred and Jane and Willy. The husbands are off for a golfing weekend, while the wives expect to spend time together back in London. But plans go awry when they each receive a note from Maurice Duclos, an amorous Frenchman. It seems they both had affairs with him before their marriages to Fred and Willy. Click here to read more.
'Fallen Angels' at the Shakespeare Theatre through July 28
Noel Coward's 'Fallen Angels' spices up Shakespeare Theatre stage
By C.W. WALKER | The Asbury Park Press
Meet Julia Sterroll and Jane Banbury. The best of friends, each has been married to her nice, respectable, upper-middle-class husband for five years, and the spark is definitely gone.
As Julie explains to her decent but mundane mate, Fred, although they may still love each other, they are no longer in love with each other. When he agrees that the initial violent passion is over, she responds, “Thank God.” Well, maybe.
For although Julia and Jane are not exactly Jazz Age housewives, they are certainly bored and just a little bit desperate. But that’s about to change: A lover the women shared in the past (though not at the same time) has come to London, and the ladies are both wary and intrigued with the possibilities. Because, after all, he’s French,and you know how those Frenchmen can be. Ooooh lala! Click here to read more.
Review: Noel Coward's 'Fallen Angels' at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
By RICK BUSCIGLIO | Examiner.com
The great wit and charm of Noel Coward and his rarely performed early comedy "Fallen Angels" is now on display at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's Kirby Theatre on the Drew University Campus. Quite simply, "Fallen Angels" may be the quintessential British drawing room comedy with more style over substance, i.e. Coward's wit trumps intricate plot. Don't misunderstand, it is a delightfully elegant, refined and very funny, three-act comedy with a superb cast of six: Julie Jesneck, Jeffrey M. Bender, Allison Mackie, Ned Noyes, Melissa Miller and Michael Sharon.
The plot centers on two middle-aged women of the English "upper-crust" variety who are suffering from the classic "seven year itch." This was a scandalous theme for 1925 London audiences. Pre-marital sex was then solely the 'right' of men. Click here to read more.
The Real Housewives of London
By BRUCE CHADWICK | History News Network
The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Beverly Hills, New York, Orange County and the rest of those shows are rank amateurs at sex, lying, deceit, treachery, materialism and greed compared to the London housewives in Noel Coward’s outrageously funny play Fallen Angels, which opened in 1925.
The rollicking play about sexuality in tepid old London town in the middle of the Roaring Twenties opened last weekend at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey and this hilarious new production is so bright and refreshing that it could have been written by Coward last Tuesday. It could be lifted, whole, and used as a Real Housewives episode. Click here to read more.
Fallen Angels at The F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre
By PATRICK MALEY | Exeunt Magazine
The drawing room was for Noel Coward what blank verse was for Shakespeare: the seemingly limiting structure within which the playwright finds incalculable room for expressive maneuvering. With little more than a couch, desk, dining table, piano, and a well-stocked bar at his disposal, Coward had great fun exploring all the petty fears, desires, and hang-ups of the bourgeois Londoners that populate his plays. Chief among those fears and desires, and perhaps Coward’s favorite topic, is the conflict between sex and manners, the battle between indulging human desire or denying its call in favor of the modest politeness of buttoned-up high society. Click here to read more.
'Fallen Angels' rise in Madison:
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey presents Noel Coward play
By BILL NUTT | The Daily Record
Literature abounds with romantic triangles, but nothing can quite match the romantic pentagon formed by the characters in “Fallen Angels” by Noel Coward.
Julia and Jane have been friends for years, and their steadfast but drab spouses – Frederick and Willy, respectively – are golf buddies. Each woman carried on a brief but passionate premarital affair with the same man, a dashing Frenchman named Maurice.
Now Maurice has returned to their lives, and his arrival awakens feelings that Julia and Jane thought they had stifled. The results are comic and also a bit poignant. Click here to read more.