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THEATER REVIEW: “Fallen Angels”

Are all housewives bored, or is that only in theater and television? Discuss.

Oh, never mind, let’s just consider the two Noël Coward gives us in his 1925 comedy “Fallen Angels.”

Julia (Joanne Strapp) and Fred Sterroll (Thomas Miller) breezily discuss the loss of passion in their five-year marriage (at least, that’s how Julia sees it) before he charges off to a golf date with best friend Willie Banbury (Jason Maddy).

Enter Julia’s best friend and neighbor, Willie’s wife Jane (Summer Spiro), breathless, dressed for travel and waving something that will upset the comfortable, passionless existence of both of them. It is a postcard of Italy’s Blue Grotto, from a Frenchman named Maurice (Richard Baird), with whom both women dallied before marriage. Julia has also received a card, and it seems Maurice will soon be in London.

Jealousy, fear and anticipation ramp up to fever pitch. Julia packs, but both eventually calm down long enough to realize escape isn’t the answer. They’ll just have to face the music – fortified by a bottle of champagne.

Also along for a hilarious ride is a third terrific female character: Julia’s new maid Jasmine (who for no apparent reason is to be called Saunders), played with brisk efficiency and maddening expertise by Jacquelyn Ritz. This woman has been everywhere and done everything except romance Maurice.

This is accomplished British silliness of the type Coward did better than anyone, and director Rosina Reynolds (blessed with two terrific actresses) lets it build slowly, but not enough to drag.

Strapp is a standout as Julia, who communicates as much wordlessly as she does with Coward’s clever lines.

Spiro’s Jane provides the emotional engine for much of the comedy – she’s impetuous, hysterical and funny, and a fine counterpoint to Julia’s more laid-back attitude.

Miller and Maddy aren’t exactly relegated to the status of props, but this show belongs to the women, and the guys wisely get out of the way. They do have a few nice moments in the second act, though.

Baird and his fractured French accent amuse and calm both the suspicious men and the fearful women.

Marty Burnett contributes a terrific set (as usual), and Matt Novotny’s lighting and Aaron Rumley’s sound design set the atmosphere nicely.

The visual stars of this show are Alina Bokovikova’s stunning flapper-age costumes for the ladies. The men get short shrift in this department as well as script, but then men aren’t usually considered clothes horses.

Coward has written better plays – and certainly better balanced ones in gender terms (“Private Lives” comes to mind) – but Reynolds and company give us an enjoyable evening of fluff with “Fallen Angels.”

The details

“Fallen Angels” plays through Sept. 28 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach, California.

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.

Tickets: (858) 481-1055 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.