TR Robertson -North Coast Repertory Theatre’s opening play for their 42nd Season is a wonderfully hilarious world premiere comedy, “The Angel Next Door”, commissioned for the theatre by NC Rep. Artistic Director David Ellenstein and written by playwright Paul Slade Smith. The comedic farce is based on a 1924 drawing-room comedy, “Play at the Castle”, written by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar. The 1924 comedy has been translated into English and adapted in 1926 into the comedy “The Play’s the Thing” and adapted again in 1984 into “Rough Crossing.” Smith had written two other successful plays that have appeared at NC Rep., “Unnecessary Farce” and “The Outsider.” The fast paced and very funny “The Angel Next Door” is drawing a full house of theatre goers and will be another successful Smith production before moving to the Laguna Playhouse, also run by North Coast Rep Artistic Director David Ellenstein and Managing Director Bill Kerlin. Ellenstein is also the Director for the North Coast Rep production of “The Angel Next Door.”
Photos by Aaron Rumley
This is a very clever, witty comedy that has the audience laughing throughout the play. The premise of the play is a husband-and-wife playwright team, Arthur and Charlotte Sanders, are in need of an idea for a successful play to keep them in financial good standing. It is set in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1948 and takes place in a large bedroom in a seaside mansion. They have found a novel they really like, written by a young romantic novelist, Oliver Adams, and the three of them are now visiting a mansion where singer Margot Bell will be singing in a concert. Margot is the central inspiration for the novel as Oliver met Margot a while back and fell instantly in love with her while starting a lengthy romantic letter writing relationship with Margot. While at the mansion, Arthur and Charlotte hear what they think is a romantic liaison between Margot and a Broadway singer, Victor Pratt. They need Oliver to sign a contract with a publishing company for the novel so they can have the right to turn the novel into a play and save them financially. If he hears about the Victor/Margot romantic affair, all will be lost. Well, the worst happens and now Arthur and Charlotte, mainly Charlotte, must now come up with an elaborate scheme to deal with Margot, Victor and the out of his mind Oliver to try and save the possibility that the novel can be produced as a play. Along with this, the comings and goings of a stoic, yet incredibly funny, housemaid, Olga Molnar, keep the audience in hysterics. Interesting that Smith names Olga, and her strong European accent, Molnar, perhaps in tribute to Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar.
One of the funniest parts of the play begins right at the beginning of the play when Charlotte and Arthur enter arguing about the Rhode Island mansion bedroom they are in as the setting for a play and where the audience should be in reference to the walls. They finally decide it should be looking out the large windows toward the open water, which happens to be where, invisibly, the real audience is seated. The back and forth, quick paced dialogue and the mildly complicated plot for creating a play to try and fool Oliver keeps the audience glued to their seats so they don’t miss the next series of steps that will unfold.
An amazing six-member cast, made up of five performers debuting at NC Rep., all not only fit their parts perfectly, but their facial expressions and body language blend smoothly with the dialogue in the play. Playing quick witted playwright Charlotte Sanders, who will somehow rise to save the day, is Barbara E. Robertson. Playing her husband Arthur Sanders, quick with a snide remark but a little lost on how to save the situation, is NC Rep. Veteran James Newcomb. Playing the lovelorn Oliver Adams is Taubert Nadalini. Nadalini has the audience roaring when Oliver goes through the three stages, according to Arthur, of emotional breakdown. Elinor Gunn plays Margot Bell, Oliver’s romantic interest and has some equally comedic moments when she, Arthur, Victor and Charlotte are rehearsing the play written to fool Oliver. Thomas Edward Daugherty plays the mildly ditzy Broadway singer Victor Pratt. His facial expressions during the rehearsal and performance of the play Charlotte wrote are priceless. As good as all of these cast members are, the audience favorite for this evening was Erin Noel Grennan as the European housemaid Olga Molnar. Olga is stoic, stone-faced, not impressed with “theater people” and gets into interesting discussions with Charlotte about the purpose of theatre, the journey actors take the audience on and whether or not theatre can change people’s lives. Sounds deep, but the presentation is funny. Watching Olga as an observer to the play put on for Oliver is a comedic delight.
“The Angel Next Door” is directed by David Ellenstein. His Creative Team is Set Designer Marty Burnett, Lighting Designer Matthew Novotny, Costume Designer Elisa Benzoni, Sound Designer Ian Scott, Prop Designer Cindy Rumley, Hair & Wig Designer Peter Herman and Stage Manager Vernon Willet.
“The Angel Next Door” is absolutely a comedy you should see if you just want a break from everyday life and all of its complications. This will be the most fun two hours you will spend the week you see it. “The Angel Next Door” will run until October 1st Wednesday through Sundays. Call the Box Office at 858-481-1055 or go to www.noorthcoastrep.org for tickets. Next up for North Coast Rep is “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” beginning on October 18th.