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Ripe for a Lapse: A Review of Commonwealth Theatre Company’s “Fallen Angels”

Review by Alan Jozwiak of “Fallen Angels”: Commonwealth Theatre Company

Summertime tends to be a dark time for theatres, although a few theaters have a robust summer season of programming, such as Commonwealth Theatre Company.  Housed on the campus of NKU, they combine an evening’s worth of theater with a pre-show dinner that audience members rave about.

For their first show this season, they are staging the early Noël Coward play “Fallen Angels”.

“Fallen Angels” tells the “scandalous” story of two female friends, Julia Sterroll (Rachel Perin) and Jane Banbury (Mindy Heithaus), who have been married to their husbands for the past five years and find themselves ripe for a lapse in their marital vows.  Bored by their passionless marriages, they long for the attention of Maurice Duclos (Matt Krieg), a foreigner each woman has had an affair with before their marriages.

This play builds in humor and comedic craziness as the staid married couples strip off their proper English conventions to reveal their real passions underneath.

Perin and Heithaus create a wonderous comedic team as the lead women. They have complimentary histrionic moments as they strive to get a leg up over the other to be the first to resume their affair with Maurice Duclos.  Perin beautifully showcases her comedic chops in the second half of the play. It was very funny to see her flustered rage against Heithaus’s character for going after Maurice without her.

Perhaps the apex of this crazy behavior comes with their strong performances while getting drunk on champagne as they wait for Maurice to appear.  Heithaus gives an outstanding performance as the drunk Jane Banbury, staggering around on one shoe while trying to act like she was not drunk.  It was a highlight of the show.

“Fallen Angels” is a female-driven show and the last women of the cast to round out the comedy is the maid Saunders, played by Kimberly Lazzeri.  Saunders is a know-it-all servant and steals the show in the beginning of the play by offering advice, singing foreign language songs (which is appropriate, since Lazzeri is an Assistant Professor of Voice at NKU), and being the voice of reason for the rest of the characters. 

Kudos also need to go to Costume Designer Ronnie Chamberlain, who crafted two amazing evening gowns for the two lead actresses.  Not only were they period pieces (the play is set in 1925), they perfectly complemented the beauty of the actresses wearing them.  The same also goes for the day wear that Perin and Heithaus wore the rest of the play.  They were thoughtfully crafted and beautifully executed.

Likewise, Scenic and Prop Designer Cat Johnson produced a handsome set that reflected the style of the roaring 20s.  It was a perfect complement to the upper-class shenanigans going on over the course of the play.  It was elegant without being too ostentatious.

My only quibble with this production is that the opening of the play needs to be a bit tighter, since some of the obvious laugh lines fell flat of the production that I saw.  Doing so would more properly showcase the work of Cary Davenport more effectively, who plays Julie Sterroll’s husband Frederick.

In short, this production provides a rare chance to see a funny Noël Coward play.  It has strong acting, beautiful costumes, and a great set.  Fallen Angels runs one more week, with performances running Wednesday through Sunday evenings. For more information, check the Commonwealth Theatre Company website at https://www.NKU.edu/academics/sota/about/2019-ctc-season.html.