by Paul Ruffolo
left, Kay Allmand, Molly Rhode and Beth Mulkerron
in “Fallen Angels.”
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production written by Noel
Coward runs through May 1 in the Broadway Theater
Center, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee. Call 414-278-7800 or
MILWAUKEE - Noel Coward, a frequent visitor to Ten
Chimneys in the Town of Genesee, the center of the
theatrical universe for many years, once said about one
of his visits, “I dined with Alfred and Lynn - just
the three of us. We started at a quarter to eight and
finished at a quarter past one, during which time we
never drew breath. We wandered back and forth happily
over the 41 years we have known and loved one another,
and it was altogether enchanting and, above all,
a director, actor, composer and prolific writer of
comedies, is back on stage under the auspices of the
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and a merry romp it is.
“Fallen Angels,” written in 1925, was almost
banned from the stage in its time.
It was considered, among other things,
“obscene, shocking, vulgar, disgusting and vile.” By
today’s standards, we can only say, “How times have
idea of women getting drunk or having sexual fantasies
or not being virgins when they married was once
is a very witty man. One can sense that he had almost as
much fun writing his plays as we do watching them.
Clever dialogue abounds, appropriate music crops up in
all the right places, male and female characters are
both the target of his affectionate swipes, and a theme
of some sort is usually subtly woven in. This theme is
whether one can sustain passion in a marriage or is it
at best a companionable, comfortable but often ho-hum
ritual of tolerance and acceptance.
couples, affluent and seemingly semi-content in their
married lives, are put to the test when a former French
lover of both of the wives before they were married
writes that he is coming to town to visit both Julia and
Jane. Their husbands, Willy and Fred, are going on a
golfing tour and are totally unaware of the postcards
their wives have received, so their absence makes a
meeting with Maurice possible and utterly alluring. The
women are quickly thrown into titillating memories.
the two women at Julia’s house await Maurice’s
arrival, they get drunk and nasty to each other. The
scene is the apex of hilarity. Despite their long close
friendship, they both seem to have some mutual gripes
about each other, and under the pressure of waiting,
they all spill out. Eventually Jane leaves in a huff.
after, Willy arrives looking for Jane who is not at
home. Julia tells him that she is meeting an old lover,
which totally befuddles the smug, nerdy Willy, who
can’t imagine any woman wanting anyone but him.
Together they go off to find Jane. Meanwhile Fred
appears, followed closely thereafter by a
bedraggled-looking Jane. When he asks the whereabouts of
Julia, he is told that she has gone to meet a former
this all works out is Coward’s secret and ours to
discover. The roles of the three women characters are
perfectly executed by Kay Allmand as the smooth,
sophisticated Julia; by Beth Mulkerron as the bubblier,
more coquettish Jane; and by Molly Rhode as the
rambunctious maid Saunders, who is probably the smartest
character of all.
Chase Stoeger are ideal as the oblivious husbands, and
Matt Koester as the sexy Frenchman who understands
female needs better than the husbands do. The play ends
on a musical note with everyone gathered at the piano,
one of the focal props in the well-decorated living room
(set designer Maureen Chavez-Kruger) as the musically
inclined cast gives us a happy-ending tune, but what
happens next as the curtain descends is anyone’s
guess. Coward likes to keep us wondering.