If you are unable to swing tickets to the Bette Middler / Hello Dolly love fest, you might consider heading a few doors down to see Kevin Kline starring as the sun to the supporting characters orbiting planets in Present Laughter, a play by Noel Coward. Kevin Kline shines brightly in his role as an aging phenom stage actor, Garry Essendine.
To say his self obsession cup runneths over is an understatement and his staff and admirers do nothing to quell the overflow. The assembled sycophants in the form of his assistant, estranged wife, two love interests, cleaning lady, man servant, two business partners, and one crazy playwright are smart, savvy, and generally appealing as they compete for air time in Garry’s elusive gaze. The banter between the characters gets bandied about like a hot potato and one needs to remain present to appreciate the rich dialogue that is exchanged. Each and every actor is on their A game and had us laughing away through the entirety of the show.
Sadly though, for all of this adoring attention or perhaps because of it, Mr. Kline ‘s character is bewildered, lonely, and marooned from any true personal connection. His portrayal reminded me a bit of Glenn Close as dear Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. I am now wondering if Kevin and Glenn (his wife in The Big Chill some 34 years ago – yikes) have convened to compare notes on what it is like to portray, and to be, an aging acting legend. One could do a whole write up comparing/contrasting the two shows and the differences of the male/female experience on similar paths. Maybe one will! In the meantime, do yourself a favor and go basque in the glow of Kevin Kline and his very bright star power. It is a worthy and worthwhile experience.