Theater Review - A Song at Twilight (CT)

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 that time.


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.

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