Kevin Kline returns to Broadway after a long hiatus in Noel Coward's "Present Laughter," which opened Wednesday night. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
"Present Laughter" is back on Broadway for the sixth time since it first opened in 1946, and you could say Noel Coward's sublime comedy of manners is as delightful, delicious, and "delovely" as ever. And what makes the current production stand out even more is Kevin Kline's bravura performance. After a ten-year absence, he is making a glorious return to the Great White Way.
He is Garry Essendine, Coward's invention of a matinee idol watching his prime pass him by. He is in perpetual performance, always on and yet self-aware. He is a truly fascinating character, and perhaps Coward's most autobiographical. It's a role coveted by some of our greatest stage actors, and now, it's Kevin Kline's turn, and he is delivering a tour de force, calling upon all of his skills, both comic and tragic. When he speaks, it's a soliloquy, brilliantly timed for maximum comic effect.
The plot is farcical, and that only adds to the great fun as we follow Garry, his wife, his secretary, household staff, and assorted friends and fans entangle one another in the silly soap opera intrigue of 1939 high society.
Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel does exceptional work with his ensemble, maximizing the manic comedy while allowing his leads to rise above type. There is humanity among these crazy characters and far more depth than you'd expect.
And that's of course also attributed in large part to the performances. Cobie Smulders, making her stage debut, tackles the vixen role with alluring abandon. And Broadway veterans Kate Burton and Kristine Nielsen juicily sink their teeth into Coward's biting wit.
Kevin Kline still cuts quite a charismatic figure. He's a brilliant comedian in a leading man's body, and he fits the role like a Savile Row suit. But he also takes the play beyond comedy to a very real, and even poignant, portrait of a fading star; and now approaching his seventh decade, far from fading, his own star is brighter than ever.