"A Song at Twilight"
Westport Country Playhouse, Westport
What of “A Song at Twilight,” now playing at the Westport Country Playhouse? The fact that it bears the signature of the incomparable Noel Coward is impressive indeed. One expects the imprint of his style, of his witty repartee, in every line.
But, alas, this particular Noel Coward play (which is literally his swan song, his last play), moves quietly—very quietly—across the stage. In fact the whole production encourages a snooze within the audience.
Not to blame the cast. Brian Murray, Mia Dillon and Gordana Rashovich are all first-rate actors. Or at least they could be, given different material. But the actors quietly intone their lines, offering little challenge to each other. And it’s talk, talk, talk! Or, shall we say, mumble, mumble, mumble. Little happens, as memories flit across the stage or briefly emerge overhead.
“A Song at Twilight” undoubtedly reflects Coward’s own final years, as he recalls his past and indulges in regrets. The plot deals with Sir Hugo (Murray) who waits for a visitor, former lover Carlotta (Rashovich). She arrives and confronts him with correspondence, a sheaf of his letters sent to her and his other lovers. He is challenged by the fact that he never openly acknowledged his homosexuality (a reality true of Coward himself). Will Carlotta use these letters to expose him? Will she blackmail him? Ultimately, Hugo’s wife Hilde (Dillon) persuades Carlotta to return the letters, and Hugo is left with his own recollections, regrets, remorse.
The material itself is poignant, but would lend itself more appropriately to poetic reflection, rather than drama on the stage. One wishes Coward had inscribed it all in a series of poems or essays, leaving those of us, his successors, to quietly contemplate his words.
As for “A Song at Twilight,” let’s put it to rest, quietly entombed, and move on to the theater’s upcoming season. It promises to be far livelier than “A Song at Twilight.” In particular, “Sing for Your Shakespeare,” a revue which surfaces next month, looks to be exciting.
May 8, 2014