Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer. He was flamboyant and known for his wit, which usually made fun of Britain’s upper classes. His play, Hay Fever, was written in 1924. His humor target was bad manners and bad behavior. In the play he uses an egocentric family that only thinks of themselves. The family name is Bliss and they are happy being who they are and not caring about anyone else.
The family consists of a father, mother, and two grown up children, who refuse to act like adults. Each of these people invite a guest to their country estate without telling the others nor the family’s maid.
Director Rick Hornor directed the Steve Martin play Picasso at the Lapine Agile, or as I call it Picasso at the Jumping Bunny. It was one of my favorite plays from the Tacoma Little Theatre. He taught theatre at Whitworth University in Spokane. He has directed around the world from Scotland to Saipan, so he knows people and how they sound. In this play, however, I wish he had toned down the heavily upper-crust English accent delivered by the son (Simon) and the daughter (Sorel). I think the audience got the point that the two were snotty, but might have been a little lost in the translation.
The Blake R. York set was a typical York work of art. It looked sturdy, country house, and upper class with beams, French doors, wainscoting, and colorful flowers rendered in paper (I’m guessing) with hints of Dale Chihuly creativity, the set just reeked of money. It gave us a feeling of Japanese art. The characters talked about a Japanese room, which we never saw. We didn’t need to, it was already there in our minds. It was just amazing.
The Bliss family brother and sister start off the production.
Aside from the accent, I enjoyed Rodman Bolek as the son, Simon. Bolek also acted in Hornor’s presentation of Picasso at the Lapine Agile. Simon draws caricatures in charcoal much of which winds up on his face. He was definitely happy go lucky.
Deya Ozburn (Sorel Bliss) was last seen in Blythe Spirit, which was also a Noël Coward play. I loved her fluid motion as she led guest Sandy Tyrell around by his tie.
Judith Bliss, mother of Simon and Sorel, was played by Jane McKittrick. Her accent was toned down and delivered well. She was as flamboyant as Noël Coward, until a line was crossed. I look forward to seeing her again without the wig.
John W. Olive played the father, David Bliss. He was almost a non-entity, coming in last of the characters. He is past managing artistic directory at Lakewood Playhouse. TLT and Lakewood Playhouse work well together. I really like the “laissez-faire” partnership and cooperation.
I saw the play with my wife, Peg and several of our friends. Sunday morning over breakfast we discussed it. Our favorite character and actor was Adrianna Littlejohn; she played the maid Clara. In her opening scene she had a distinct Cockney accent, but tapered off. She did have some attitude, which we surmised could well have come with years of service working for the Bliss family. I like they way she knocked back left-over whiskey. Sometimes you even need comedy relief in a comedy. She added just the right touch.
The play ends with a very funny scene that has no real dialog.
The show runs through the 23rd. Noël Coward is always good and TLT productions are always worthwhile. Get your tickets online – tix4.centerstageticketing.com/sites/tacomalittletheatre/showdates.php?s_id=238