Review: ‘Present Laughter’ is delightful |

Review: ‘Present Laughter’ is delightful

John Deaderick and Sandra Rockman
Special to Prospector

Know & Go

WHO: Sierra Cinemas Presents National Theatre Live

WHAT: Present Laughter

WHEN: Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Sierra Cinemas, E. Main Street Grass Valley

TICKETS: $18 Adults, $15 Seniors, Children 12 and under & students with ID; Available online at or at the Sierra Cinemas Box Office

INFO:, 530-477-9000

The classic comedy “Present Laughter” by Noel Coward is the next offering of National Theatre of London’s (NTL) production showing at Sierra Cinemas on Thursday evening Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. and again at the matinee performance on Wednesday Dec. 11 at 3:30 p.m.

John Deaderick and I, both ardent Coward fans, were lucky enough to preview the animated hi-jinks of this over-the-top sex farce starring Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Fleabag), as Garry Essendine. Noel Coward freely admitted his similarities to his main character and to the situations of the play — a caricature of his own vainglorious life resulting in the farcical complications of a world that wants wants wants him!

Attractive and self-obsessed, Garry has to deal not only with those who want to seduce him, but he must placate both his long-suffering secretary and his wife, cope with a crazed young playwright, and overcome his impending mid-life crisis (since he has recently turned forty). And all this, as he and his acting troupe prepare to leave in just a scant few days for a tour commitment of eight different plays to be performed in Africa. Mayhem ensues, of course.

Homosexuality in 1939 was illegal when Coward, a closeted homosexual, wrote the comedy. Matthew Warchus, the director, updated aspects of the play with some gender switches and musical choices that remind us clearly of the here and now. Yet he has steadfastly retained the charm of Coward’s era and times in the Art Deco setting of Garry’s home and the stylishness of 30s costuming.

The original title of this play was “Sweet Sorrow”; this is where the play’s heart is evident.

The ensemble is just terrific – many recognizable from past NTL productions and popular movies and television series. We were particularly taken by Sophie Thompson as Monica, Garry’s unflappable secretary, Suzie Toase (Harry Potter movies, One Man, Two Guvs) as Helen and Joshua Hill (The Green Book) as the Garry’s butler.

Although quite histrionic and chaotic at times, “Present Laughter” is redeemed by the quieter, more intimate and contemplative moments. Scotts’ incredible focus and emotional fluidity is evident in scenes of Garry and his estranged wife, Liz, played elegantly by Indira Varma (Game of Thrones).

The original title of this play was “Sweet Sorrow”; this is where the play’s heart is evident. And one could see how underneath all the mess and frenzy is a man just trying to survive a life of that two-headed creature – Fame!

Don’t miss it!

John Deaderick is a local theatre artist. Sandra Rockman is a local theatre director, acting and Improv teacher. Classes begin again Spring 2020. Contact her at or 530-265-6514.

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