Gems that they are, movies from the golden age of black and white cinema are not timeless. The obsolete manners and super-sized emotions of classic romances and melodramas can be so hokey as to be downright distracting.
Which is exactly what Kneehigh theater knows and capitalizes on in their marvelous production of Noel Coward’s “Brief Encounter.” Having wowed London, the production is seeing its US premiere at ACT.
Rather than laughing at the goofy and the overwrought, the audience of “Brief Encounter” is laughing with the production. Kneehigh is in on the joke.
It’s shaping up to be a Noel Cowardy season. Private Lives is still playing at Cal Shakes, Connie Champagne is singing Coward in her “Songs to Make you Gay” cabaret, “Easy Virtue", an adaptation of the Coward play, recently screened at the SF International Film Festival and ACT will open their Fall season with the U.S. premiere of “Brief Encounter,” Kneehigh Theatre’s production of the play based on the 1945 film. The show wowed London with a blend of theater and film and music and comes to SF in September.
If Lear or Macbeth haven’t compelled you to make the trek to Orinda to attend a California Shakespeare Company performance, Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” may be a smooth entre; nothing can beat a warm breeze, a bottle of chilled chardonnay, a picnic and a comedy by a playwright whose style The New York Times once described as a combination of “cheek and chic, pose and poise.”
While Shakespeare’s players strut and fret upon the stage at the Bruns Amphitheater, Noel Coward’s will not so much strut and fret as spark and spar. In this 1930 comedy of manners, a divorced couple find themselves booked into adjoining honeymoon suites. Hilarity ensues.