Englishman Noel Coward was a
brilliant writer, a witty wordsmith, who drew a clever twist of humor out of
every situation in every one of his plays.
However, his last play, written in 1966, and set in Switzerland on a
beautiful set designed by Alexander Dodge, while filled with bon mots, deals
with a serious theme.” A Song at
Twilight,” being presented at
Hartford Stage, confronts homosexuality very frankly and Director Mark Lamos,
formerly the longtime artistic director of Hartford Stage and now AD of Westport
Country Playhouse gives a no-holds-barred view of this 90-0minute-without-intermission
exploration. The story reminds us of how things have changed radically since
Coward starred in the
original production with the beautiful Lili Palmer, large shoes to fill, but
Brian Murray, Gordana Rashovich and Mia Dillon are convincing in their roles.
Murray, a fine actor who has been nominated so many times for a Tony he should
be resentful, is elderly Hugo Latymer, a famed writer, supposedly patterned
after Somerset Maugham. Hugo has been married for 20 years to his former
secretary Hilde, a part Mia Dillon plays cunningly. She's dressed plainly and in the beginning
acts like a mouse. Her husband insults her at every turn and can't wait for her
to leave. The table is set for two and we soon find out that he is expecting a
former lover, the actress Carlotta Gray, whom he has not seen in over 20 years.
Neither of them can figure out what she wants.
When Gordana Rashovich
arrives in the part of Carlotta, she is absolutely stunning in a metallic dress
designed by Fabio Toblini. In short
order, she tells Hugo that she is angry with him for negative comments he made
about her in his memoir and that she is writing her own. The, she presents him
with a sheaf of love letters he wrote to a man many years before. He is shocked, and as he is remembering his
affair, a room high above the stage opens to reveal two male nudes locked in
embrace. They are shrouded in cloudy light by Matthew Richards. This happens
several times. I do not know if these scenes were part of the original script
or invented by the director; they seem over the top. (Note: Since going to air, I've learned the nude scenes were the Director's choice. RF)
Meanwhile, Hugo, who says he
is not a homosexual, wants to buy the letters from Carlotta, but she insists
they are not for sale. In fact, he could not have admitted so, for he would
have been arrested and thrown in jail.
Carlotta pairs up with Hilde against Hugo, taunting him. From where we sat, we found it difficult to
hear the entire parry and thrust lines that Noel Coward so carefully penned. I
am looking forward to seeing this play, “A
Song at Twilight,” again, when it opens the Westport Country Playhouse
season on April 29.