Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter is an ultra-clever multi-media stage production being presented by the UK’s renowned Kneehigh Theatre Company at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
The show was inspired by director David Lean’s beloved movie and shifts between theater and brief film scenes. It is cleverly adapted from Noël Coward’s original stage play Still Life and Coward’s screenplay of the 1945 British film. The audience is transported back to a suppressed era of romance “that will end in tears,” as we learn early on.
The love/lust story stars Hannah Yelland who makes you feel her anguish as the conflicted married Laura. Jim Sturgeon is strong but tender as the amorous Alec, a married doctor who dares to pursue the rendezvous. Through it all Joe Alessi makes you care about Laura’s steadfast husband Fred, who he plays with proper British dignity. A terrific comical supporting cast/musical band carries on their own affairs and sings little ditties that reflect the action.
Directed and adapted by Emma Rice, the railway station encounter plays out with heartbreaking waves of passion — which we literally see in crashing ocean film clips, along with a roaring train. You don’t have to be Freud to figure out the mesmerizing symbolism. There are just a few brief interludes of Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto #2,” which provided the memorable score for the classic movie, but it culminates with that music echoing throughout The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater.
Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter runs through March 23 at The Wallis located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills (between Camden and Beverly). For tickets call (310) 746-4000 or go to thewallis.org.