PEACE IN OUR TIME
Harvey Perr – Stage and Cinema
COWARDICE: There is much to admire and respect and even enjoy in the Antaeus Company production of Noël Coward’s Peace in Our Time (Epps Cast*), but a serious question nags at me: Why do it at all? Since forty pages and twelve characters have been cut from the play, are we really seeing the play as it was intended to be seen? Why was it a failure? Can we know that this – given that what we are experiencing is seriously pared-down – is the sum of Coward’s play? Does adding a host of lesser-known Coward songs give it stature, since they may be “lesser-known” for good reason? Oh, there are a couple of patter songs that have the old Coward zing, but “London Pride” hardly does for this play what “Twentieth Century Blues” did for Coward’s Cavalcade. Its premise – what if London was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II? – is not dissimilar from two novels, Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (which was infinitely wittier and more prescient) and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (which was more heartfelt and intense), that are readily available. And Coward himself, during this period, wrote the heartbreaking study of a working-class family, This Happy Breed, and a patriotic but stunning film, In Which We Serve, which tied him directly to the horrors of the London blitz and the efforts of real people to deal with it. There, having got that off my chest, I can say that, to the degree that it works at all, Barry Creyton has apparently done a solid job of adapting it, and Casey Stangl has nicely directed it so that it keeps moving despite its length. And though there is not one member of the cast who destroys the effectiveness of the ensemble, there are a few performances that seem sub-par. I did think that JD Cullum is marvelous as a snooty homosexual with a penchant for young Nazi officers and that Zoe Perry, as a young woman in constant conflict with her husband, is wonderfully natural; these, however, are supporting performances. I also thought that Steve Hofvendahl, Lily Knight, Danielle K. Jones, and Jason Dechert make a believably stalwart family unit. And, as the evening wore on, I grew fonder and fonder of the Graingers as people; it must be due to the fact that the actors playing them, John Combs and Amelia White, are quite good. But, lovely as Tom Budewitz’s recreation of a London pub may be, I felt less as if I were in a pub and more that I was in a theater. And I had the uneasy feeling throughout that a kind of smugness infected this production, as if the company was congratulating itself on the fine work they had done by unearthing a play by Coward that we may not have known even existed. It made one feel reprimanded for not cheering.
About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.