Mauckingbird Theatre Company, Philadelphia’s gay-themed theater group, is kicking off 2019 with its unique take on Noël Coward’s comedy “Fallen Angels,” through Jan. 27 at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake.
Set in London during the 1920s, the original play centers on two women who have been married to their husbands for five years and find their tranquil lives disrupted when a former lover, with whom both were previously involved, plans to visit from France. The women’s anticipation sets off events that come to a head once the former lover arrives in the flesh.
Mauckingbird takes the original premise, but makes both couples gay!
Nate Golden plays one of the husbands of the main characters. He said this character is a bit stuffier than many he usually plays.
“I tend to play sort of innocent or goofy, and he’s haughty. So it’s nice to let this play unfold, and I come in and support some of the action. You see me very briefly in the beginning and then I come back towards the end when everything is unfolding.”
Golden said that Mauckingbird’s take on the play allows audiences and the cast to envision what gay marriage would look like in the 1920s.
“This is Mauckingbird’s first time producing a Noël Coward piece. This looks at relationships as not all happy. This is what it could have been like in 1925 if a gay couple had been allowed to get married and live in a flat in London.”
“Fallen Angels” generated controversy and sometimes outright hostility when it debuted in 1925 because the main characters were two married women who admitted to engaging in premarital sex. Yeah, this was a long, long time before “Sex & the City” and “The Real Housewives!”
Golden said making the play compelling to modern audiences, and their less-prickly sense of decorum, was one of the challenges in interpreting the role.
“I’m sure it was very risqué when it came out for women to talk about sex this way,” he said. “There’s less of a shock in 2019. Audiences are a little more comfortable talking about those things. At the heart of the story, it’s about love and marriage, regardless of the gender of the characters. In that sense, we stay true to what Coward intended. We just get to have maybe a little more fun along the way and find new interpretations of his work.”
Another challenge was making Coward’s subtle and English sense of humor connect with modern American audiences.
“This is very nuanced,” Golden said. “Coward was very sophisticated with his wit. Coward’s phrasing is sometimes very classic and nuanced, so we have to add a little more physical comedy to get an audience to understand that we are telling a joke here: ‘Please understand that what I’m saying is funny.’ The way we’ve delivered the text has certainly helped us out to take humor that isn’t as direct as an audience expects today, and still elicit some chuckles from the crowd.”
Mauckingbird Theatre Company presents “Fallen Angels” through Jan. 27 at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks St. For more information or tickets, call 267-385-6910 or visit www.Mauckingbird.org.