“Seeing A Song At Twilight will be like opening a very expensive bottle of wine that you’ve been saving for years. It’s rich. It’s complex. And it will be an evening unlike any that people have witnessed, because this play has not been done in a major production for decades. So it’s a rare opportunity,” Art Manke describes the Noël Coward comedy he has directed at The Pasadena Playhouse. Starring Bruce Davison, Sharon Lawrence, and Roxanne Hart, it runs through April 13.
In A Song At Twilight, an elderly closeted writer reluctantly accepts a visit from his former mistress, leading to a confrontation of secrets, forbidden love, and surprising confessions. In the role of the writer Sir Hugo Latymer is Bruce Davison, “who brings incredible range with a deep well of emotional content that bubbles just below the surface. Plus he offers great wit and nuance to the character that Coward once said was based on Somerset Maugham,” Manke notes. “Sharon Lawrence is perfection as the glamorous, seductive mistress Carlotta. And Roxanne Hart as Sir Hugo’s wife Hilde offers the rock-solid warmth and honest intelligence that anchors the piece.”
The timing is right to bring A Song At Twilight to the stage now, because Manke says, “When it originally premiered in 1966 it was one year before homosexuality was decriminalized in England. So it was written just before the laws were changed in England, and we’ll see it just after the laws have changed in California, and elsewhere in the country where legal battles were won. So it is particularly timely to revisit Coward’s final play.” And Manke says he and Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse, were looking for something special to follow last season’s successful production of Coward’s comedy Fallen Angels also directed by Manke.
What makes a play by Noël Coward so appealing? Manke says, “One of the things that is required for smart humor is the surprise turn of phrase, that we don’t see something coming. Coward was the master of setting up an idea and giving you an inverted view of it that is absolutely truthful and makes us laugh at the same time. There is real substance and truthful observations about human behavior, which is universal throughout time.” Manke believes that’s why Coward’s works are worth revisiting, “because as much as we’d like to think that we as human beings have changed or progressed, we’re still grappling with the same issues we had back in the caves. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight or anywhere in between, the takeaway message this play has to offer is that the ability to love and be loved is what is most valuable in our life’s journey. That is the essence of A Song At Twilight.”
The Pasadena Playhouse presents A Song At Twilight from now through April 13. For tickets call (626) 356-7529 or go to The PasadenaPlayhouse.org or visit The Pasadena Playhouse box office at 39 S. El Molino Ave. in Pasadena.