Somewhat Recommended **
Noel Coward was an English playwright, actor and composer known for his double-entendres and risqué wit in light comedies of the post World War I era. Coward staged several cabaret shows during his lifetime, for the British troops during World War II, in Las Vegas and eventually for television in the United States.
Oh, Coward features two men and a woman (collective member Joanna Riopelle and newcomers Michael Pacar and Ian Rigg) covering Coward’s favorite songs and scenes from his plays and musicals. The selection emphasizes Coward’s impossibly world-weary (and a peculiar to the era) attitude. Light domestic intrigues allow those deeply disillusioned by years of war to poke a bit of fun at life, desperate though it may seem at times.
Theatre critic Kenneth Tynan once said that to see the whole of Noel Coward, his public and private personalities conjoined, you needed to see him in a cabaret.
Riopelle, Pacar, and Rigg were enthusiastic and sold the at times obscure (perhaps because they were taken out of context) songs, keeping gamely up with some challenging material despite some funniness with accents. The pianist was great, and Rigg especially was saucy and knowing, bringing a parochial Jazz Age suavity to his every move.
Dead Writers Theatre Collective is noted for their efforts to focus attention solely on the writer’s original voice rather than contemporary interpretations of their work.
The original work stands with its own era’s aesthetic. This can encourage woodenness or hyperbole in performance. Worse, it inadvertently encourages the impenetrability of a text to an audience, as it sometimes does here. The songs are amusing enough to make the show a pleasant experience, but not a wowser.
I wondered what the typical contemporary audience would have thought of it. I would have enjoyed it much better had I been dressed like the woman onstage and had the theater been a cabaret as well. As the performance was light, ribald and alcohol-flavored, so we might have been.
Saturday at 7:30pm, special Wednesday evening performances August 31, September 7 and 14 plus and Sunday Matinees at 2:30pm.
Single ticket price for all shows is $40 at the Box Office, or call 773-935-6860.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at Oh Coward.