Theatre Review: “Hay Fever”
“She uses sex as a sort of shrimping net.”
Noël Coward’s “Hay Fever,” directed by Steve Perigard for VA Rep, centers around the Bliss family, an artsy, self-centered set of people who use their unsuspecting weekend guests as their personal source of entertainment and intrigue. Set at the Bliss family’s home at Cookham in the English countryside, the play, written in 1924 and first performed in 1925 is, as with most of Coward’s plays, still hilarious today.
Judith Bliss, played by Irene Ziegler, a retired actress and her husband David, played by Michael Goodwin, a novelist, are mother and father to the equally eccentric Simon and Sorel, played by Matthew Bloch and Maggie Horan. Each member of the family has unknowingly invited a guest for the weekend causing there to be quite a full house, much to the chagrin of housemaid Clara, played by Terri Moore.
Judith invites an eager, young fan of hers Sandy Tyrell, played by Denis Riva, to visit and potentially pump up the aging actress’s ego. Simon and Sorel have invited their potential love interests, Myra Arundel, a notorious femme fatale played by Molly Hood, and Richard Greatham, a diplomat played by Adrian Rieder. Lastly, David has invited the meek and slightly awkward flapper Jackie Coryton, played by Maggie Roop, so as to study her, presumably for a novel he is writing. Eventually each guest ends up being taken away by a different family member than the one who initially invited him or her and we find that the Bliss family has brought them all there for a bit of farce and individual artistic inspiration.
The extremely talented ensemble cast take on each role with palpable enthusiasm. Part of why this show is so fun to watch is because you get the feeling that everyone is genuinely having a good time. Ziegler is perfection as the dramatic Judith; there is an understatedness to her physical comedy that is so well-timed, with just a pose causing a roar of laughter from the audience. Horan and Bloch are fantastic as the spoiled Bliss children. I always enjoy watching Horan as she feels so natural in every role she takes on. Rieder is fantastic as the doofy diplomat with his exaggerated pencil moustache and glasses making him almost caricature-like.
Mercedes Schaum’s very impressive set is absolutely gorgeous, very 1920s with thoughtful attention to detail. The costumes by Sue Griffin are beautiful; I was particularly taken with the evening clothes presented at the beginning of Act II, a feast for the eyes, as I wanted to study each and every detail of the women’s sparkly dresses. I also adore the styling of Hood’s character Myra, as it is reminiscent of the legendary Coco Chanel. The dialect direction by Amanda Durst is on-point, every actor sounds natural and authentic; I find that it is the authenticity of this production that really allows the audience to sit back and enjoy the ride.
“Hay Fever” is playing through March 10th at The November Theatre.
www.va-rep.org for information and tickets
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
“It’s an opportune time to have these discussions about reflecting on where we come from.”September 15, 2016
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