Aaron Lamb

by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

Prepare to laugh when Harlequin Productions stages the Noel Coward comedy Present Laughter — with “Present” pronounced as the adjective, not the verb. Written in 1939 and first staged in 1942, this classic farce is about the successful, self-obsessed actor Garry Essendine as he confronts a midlife crisis while preparing for a touring show in Africa. He has only a week to prepare for the trip. The other characters include women who want to seduce Essendine, a playwright who wants to study him, a secretary who wants to keep him organized and an estranged wife. Coward described his own play as a series of “autobiographical pyrotechnics.”

Present Laughter is directed by Harlequin co-founder Linda Whitney. It stars Marianna de Fazio, Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Ann Flannigan, Bruce Haasl, Laura Hanson, Helen Harvester, Russ Holm, Aaron Lamb, Xander Layden, Gabriel McClelland and Dennis Rolly.

Lamb plays the lead role. “His unique perspective and personality make him an absolute natural for Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde,” said Harlequin artistic director Scot Whitney. “Very few Americans really get that British sensibility, but he takes to it like a duck to water.” Lamb was last seen at Harlequin in the riotous The 39 Steps a year ago. Harvester was last seen in the glamorous title role of last season’s Hedda Gabler.

“The thing that attracted me to Present Laughter the most,” says Linda Whitney, “may be the charm of the extraordinarily eccentric collection of characters. It’s an audacious comedy that brings a number of variously motivated partners, lovers and odd acquaintances into a tumble of smart dialogue and perilous situations and gives actors glorious opportunities to stretch out. Noel Coward was a master of the style.”

In its 75-year history, Present Laughter has played all over the world, including four Broadway revivals. The latest revival, starring Kevin Kline, will play on Broadway at the same time as Harlequin’s version plays in Olympia.

What: Present Laughter

Where: Harlequin Productions’ State Theater,
202 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays,
2 p.m. Sundays, May 4-27

How much: $20-$34

Learn more: 360-786-0151 | Harlequin Productions