Curtain Up: ‘Fallen Angels’ Lands with Laughter at NTAC

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Della Lisi Kerr and Joan Meissenberg in ‘Fallen Angels’
Della Lisi Kerr and Joan Meissenberg in ‘Fallen Angels’

Noël Coward was witty, charming, provocative, and stylish. And he was an incredibly prolific playwright who penned a plethora of plays that have remained popular decades later.

Coward’s clever comedy “Fallen Angels,” which runs through Oct. 12 at Newport Theatre Arts Center, is a perfect example of his version of a sex comedy.

Written in 1925, “Fallen Angels“ follows the story of Julia and Jane, two upper-class women in England married to Fred and Willy. Maurice, a former French lover of both women, shows up while their husbands are away. Julia and Jane await their rendezvous with Maurice, although the waiting proves to be their undoing.

Directing this production of “Fallen Angels” is Larry Watts, who normally helms musicals.

“I read the play and thought wow, it’s a lot of dialogue, and if it’s staged as the script says, it’s sedentary dialogue,” said Watts. “Back then you were used to listening to dialogue—there was no TV, radio on occasion; entertainment was each other. Now everything comes so quick. You have to be entertained visually as well as audibly. So I put a lot of movement in it to keep the audience engaged. The cast keeps saying I have choreographed the show.”

“Larry has us choreographed all over the stage—it’s like a dance,” stated Della Lisi Kerr, who plays Julia.

“Larry has inserted a lot of bits that make it fun,” added Joan Meissenberg, who plays Jane.

But does a play written nearly 90 years ago still hold up for modern audiences?

“The human condition never changes, and the relationships between men and women never change,” stated Watts. “The verbiage may change, but the situation doesn’t: Women making men jealous for whatever reason, manipulating the men in their lives using their bag of tricks (whatever they may be), and then playing against each other. And the dialogue is incredible—it has double entendres, innuendos, and wit. The cast has been having a great time with it.”

“Coward has command of the language like you wouldn’t believe—he chooses his words very well,” said Meissenberg.

“It’s witty, it’s charming, it’s the world circa 1925 but it’s appropriate in 2014,” said Kerr. “The battle of the sexes is never ending and ageless.”

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