Saturday, March 10, 2012

REVIEW: Asolo Rep’s ‘Fallen Angels’ soars

You really can’t go wrong with dueling, desperate housewives.

That’s what Asolo Rep stars Kate Hampton (“God of Carnage,” “Once in a Lifetime”) and Hillary Clemens (“Yentl,” “Once in a Lifetime”) play, extremely well, in the company’s staging of “Fallen Angels.”

Noel Coward’s seldom seen 1925 comedy of manners opened Friday in Sarasota.

Hampton and Clemens portray upper-class Londoners (nice period costumes Virgil Johnson) who have been best friends since childhood and are now dangerously bored with their respective husbands of five years.

As comedy would have it, both had a premarital affairs at different times with the same Frenchman in Italy. He happens to be in town the weekend their unsuspecting spouses, also argument-prone pals, go golfing out of town.

The three, 30-minute acts unfold much like contemporary sitcoms, with the middle one packing a killer series of belly laughs.

“Fallen Angels” takes place over the course of a Saturday and Sunday in the London flat of Julia (Hampton) and Fred Sterroll (Jason Bradley, largely reprising the endearing dolt he played in “Once in a Lifetime”).

The play opens with Julia basically telling Fred, while he eats breakfast, that they’re marriage is dead — at least in the romance department.

He dismisses her pleas for passion and takes off with his buddy Will Banbury (Andrew Carter, also seen in “Once in a Lifetime” as well as “Yentl”) to hit the links.

Enter Clemens’ Jane Banbury, near hysteric as she tells Julia that their Frenchman Maurice Duclos (David Breitbarth)  is in London.

The first act finds the women humorously confirming they are both “ripe for a lapse” and, after initially planning to flea the city, staying and pledging to remain friends no matter who Maurice fancies when he comes calling.

By the second act it’s 9 p.m. and the women are antsy because they haven’t heard from their handsome Frenchman.

Strong martinis are followed by a bottle of champagne and plates of oysters — among other food items — as the two friends, fueled by alcohol, slur insults at each other.

The results are laugh-out-loud funny.

Hampton and Clemens’ timing is spot-on as they trade barbs in between stuffing their faces with (real) food and (fake) booze.

More guffaws come courtesy of Julia’s exchanges with her know-it-all maid Saunders, portrayed by gifted Asolo Rep veteran Carolyn Michel.

Granted, the third act doesn’t quite live up to the second despite the sustained ace performances by the cast and smart direction by Peter Amster (who also oversaw Asolo Rep’s winning production of “Deathtrap” last season.)

But, on balance, “Fallen Angels” is frothy fun of the best kind, worth attending if only to watch Hampton and Clemens crush during the second act.

—Photo: From left, Kate Hampton and Hillary Clemens star in the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s production of “Fallen Angels.” ANNAMAE BAFIA/PUBLICITY PHOTO

Details: Through May 13, Asolo Repertory’s Mertz Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $27-$71. Information: 941-351-8000 or


Anonymous said...

Directed by Peter Amster, not Hamster, although I'm sure he's flattered.

Wade Tatangelo said...

Spell check got me. It has been corrected. Thanks.