Coward began his life in the theater at the age of eleven, pushed onto the stage by an ambitious mother who needed money for the family because her husband had lost his job. The Master's plays are all about people distancing themselves from each other through witticisms and artifice. As if he wanted to be identified with his characters, Coward cultivated an image of himself as a bon vivant who rose at noon, spent the afternoon in his dressing gown, and made the rounds of high society at night. Given his prolific body of work, it is hardly surprising that reality differed from the myth. As writer Miranda Seymour put it in a review of Philip Hoare's 1996 Noël Coward: A Biography, Coward was "driven by the kind of passion for fame that requires boundless determination and energy." The man who wrote plays brimming with seemingly effortless humor was really an extremely disciplined author and theater artist. His works embody a similar contrast: Below the polished surface of his texts lie keen observations about class distinction, social interaction, and the ways in which people ruthlessly use one another for their own ends.
Wisely, Garrisan doesn't attempt to prove that this early drawing room comedy is also a social critique. She and her cast capture the play's spirit and sense of wicked fun, letting the situations speak for themselves. After sampling a taste of Coward in this lively production of Hay Fever, you might just find yourself wanting to head to New York for more.
Whenever I tell people what I do for a living, they invariably react with some version of this: "You have the greatest job." Indeed, I have to agree. Going to shows and then responding to them in this column over the past two years has been sublime. It is with mixed feelings, therefore, that I have decided to take my leave of New Times to pursue other projects.
All of us at the paper care about the South Florida theater community, and we are determined to find just the right person as my replacement. So consider this announcement an open casting call: If you are knowledgeable about drama, can write about it with passion and conviction, are available to see at least one production each week, and can meet deadlines consistently, send a resume and writing samples (theater reviews if possible but not necessary) to Jim Mullin, editor, New Times, P.O. Box 011591, Miami, FL 33101. Do not delay!
Hay Fever. Written by Noël Coward; directed by Gail Garrisan; with Lourelene Snedeker, Linda Bernhard, Michael McKeever, Amy London, Tom Wahl, Leila Piedrafita, David Bugher, Drew Morris, and Karen Gordon. Through January 19. Call 954-929-5400 or see "Calendar Listings.