Review by Carol Montana
ELLENVILLE, NY (July 22, 2012) – There was magic in the air on Friday, July 20 at the Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville, NY.
It was opening night of the rarely produced Noel Coward play “A Song at Twilight.” And it was marvelous, spirited, and full of delightful moments and performances.
“A Song at Twilight” stars the awesome Orson Bean as Sir Hugo Latymer, the marvelous Alley Mills as his long-suffering wife and secretary Hilde, the talented Tony Award nominee Barbara Walsh – filling in for the ailing Paula Prentiss – as Hugo’s ex-lover Carlotta, and the perfect Andrew Krug as the solicitous waiter.
First produced in London in 1966, “A Song at Twilight” was intended as Coward’s theatrical swan song. “I would like to act once more before I fold my bedraggled wings,” said the playwright.
Ah, and what a swan song it is. Based on a real-life story, “A Song at Twilight” tells of Sir Hugo in the twilight of his years, living with wife, Hilde in a luxury hotel suite in Switzerland. Nervous because his ex-lover Carlotta is coming to visit, Sir Hugo explains that their affair, “lasted exactly two years and we parted in a blaze of mutual acrimony.”
Carlotta arrives and, when Hilde leaves the two of them alone, the barbs are traded fast and furiously in typical Coward fashion. The reason for the mysterious visit becomes clear when Carlotta asks Sir Hugo’s permission to reproduce some of his love letters. And when he refuses, the subject of “other letters” surfaces bringing another whole set of complications and surprises.
“A Song at Twilight” is both typical and atypical Coward. The witticisms fly, the insults abound. The dialog is crisp and sharp and clever. And yet the drama shares the stage almost equally with the comedy in this play. It’s a complete story, fulfilling with both its joy and poignancy.
Director James Glossman’s casting is superb, his direction impeccable. What craftsmanship these four actors display, what splendor, what ensemble, what a treat for the audience to watch these masters-of-their-craft at work.
Real life husband and wife, Orson Bean and Alley Mills go back and forth with an ease that is delightfully delicious. “… What an egregious ass you are,” says he. “You have now called me a camel, a dromedary and an ass within the last ten minutes. Your normal dialogue is less zoological ….” says she. As Sir Hugo, Bean is boisterous and loud, but ultimately insecure, old and powerless. His is a virtuoso performance.
Mills is so at ease in her part, that it hardly seems to require any effort at all – the mark of a true professional. Adroit in her handling of the French and German languages, as well as the blended European accent her part requires, she is witty and quick, and an absolute joy to watch.
As Hugo’s former lover Carlotta, Barbara Walsh – filling in at the last minute for the ailing (but recovering) Paula Prentiss – does a most marvelous job. With only three days of rehearsal, Walsh performed with script in hand on opening night, only glancing at it occasionally before delivering the zingers that cut through the niceties and manners so often present in a Coward play. What a pro! Bouncing onstage in a self-confident manner, dressed as a ‘60s teenybopper in mini skirt and white boots, Carlotta is several years Sir Hugo’s junior. But make no mistake, there is no respect due to her elder in this particular situation.
Andrew Krug is the waiter, polite and solicitous, without being fawning and obsequious. His performance is flawless – what every waiter should be.
The set by Drew Francis is gorgeous – of course it’s gorgeous, it’s a Noel Coward play, which takes place in a private hotel suite in Switzerland.
“A Song at Twilight” is a joy. It’s a play that has you laughing one moment, and wiping away a tear the next. Performances of this caliber do not come along every day. Celebrate the fact that great theatre is in our own backyard at Shadowland. Do not miss this show!
“A Song at Twilight,” will run through August 5, 2012.
Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m.
Extra 2:00 p.m. matinee performances have been added on Saturday, July 28 and Saturday, August 4 to meet ticket demand.
Regular ticket prices are $30 Thursday – Saturday evenings, $25 on Saturday and Sunday matinees. There is a $2 student or senior discount.
Season subscription pricing, group ticket sales and more information is available at the box office at 157 Canal Street, Ellenville, NY, by phone at 845-647-5511 and online at