I have to admit I wasn’t very excited about seeing the revival of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter, a comedy that Coward wrote with himself in mind playing Garry Essendine, the lead. The play is thought to be somewhat autobiographical, except Essendine is a playboy and Coward was a homosexual. An aging theater idol, Essendine juggles the assorted characters in his life.
As the story opens, he’s preparing to go on tour in Africa but becomes distracted by the overnight stay of Daphne, a young debutant. His household staff is not surprised to meet her in the morning, wearing one of his dressing gowns. Young women find him extremely attractive, so they keep “losing their latchkeys” as an excuse to stay over in his spare room.
Present Laughter is delightfully funny and entertaining. Essendine, who preens before every mirror, has his own entourage, consisting of his former wife, the talented Kate Burton, an over-acting Reg Rogers as the director, Henry, his producer (Peter Francis James), and his confidant and plain- talking secretary Monica (Kristine Nielson). They all coddle and minister to him, catering to his every need and desire. Making her Broadway debut, Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”) gives a strong sexy performance as Joanna, Henry’s wife.