A Noël Coward comedy revival doesn't hit bottom, but it doesn't fly too high either.
This early comedy from Noël Coward leans heavily on backstory, without providing much in the way of present-story. Best friends Julia (Emjoy Gavino) and Jane (Eliza Stoughton), unbeknownst to their husbands, Fred (Fred Geyer) and Willy (Jesse Dornan), had consecutive and concupiscent premarital affairs with the same man, a dashing Frenchman named Maurice Duclos. On the same weekend their husbands head off on a golfing trip, Julia and Jane receive word of an impending visit from their past lover; feeling the first strains of boredom five years into their respective marriages, the women work themselves into a joint tizzy entertaining thoughts of rekindling the old flame—separately or together.
Though it was apparently scandalous in the still pre-suffrage Britain of 1925, Coward’s confection comes across now as harmless and a little toothless. There’s entertainment to be had in the play’s central scene, in which the women get falling-down drunk in their nervous anticipation of Maurice’s potential arrival. Gavino and Stoughton play plastered quite amusingly, especially in marking their characters’ careening emotional arcs under the influence. And Remy Bumppo stalwart Annabel Armour makes the most of her role as a no-nonsense maid whose own extensive backstory provides comic relief.
But the fact that the main comic plot needs relief shows the problem: This is a one-joke setup stretched to nearly two hours. Shannon Cochran’s staging is a bit too airy, allowing scenes that want to be fizzy to instead feel nattering; once both the husbands and the elusive Maurice (Joshua Moaney) all show up after intermission, what should be a jaunty denouement becomes downright difficult to follow. “Fallen” might be a bit harsh, but Angels definitely doesn’t soar.
Remy Bumppo Theatre Company at Greenhouse Theater Center. By Noel Coward. Directed by Shannon Cochran. With Emjoy Gavino, Eliza Stoughton, Annabel Armour. Running time: 1hr 50mins; one intermission.