United Players' Present Laughter with Edward Foy, Melanie Reich and Corina Akeson
Corina Akeson


posterUnited Players
Present Laughter by Noël Coward

Dates and Venue 9 November – 2 December 2012, 8pm (2pm matinee on Dec 2) | Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street

Reviewers R W Eberle & Ed Farolan

Noel Coward's Present Laughter may well be an original precursor of the television show Entourage. Coward's play pivots around the scandals of stage star Gary Essendine and his sordid set-tos with assorted groupies or associates, most of whom are far more confronting than sycophantic. 

Edward Foy brings a disarming, self-possessed sense of composure to his role as Essendine, an aging actor whose libido lands him in one amusing predicament after another.  In one memorable scene-stealing performance with Foy, his housekeeper Miss Erickson played admirably by Diana Sandberg responds to his questions about her friend the medium by pitching to both ends of her vocal register as she tells him that "sometimes she will sing high high up like a bird and at other times she may make a little bark."” 

The United Players production of Present Laughter also evinces a range of acting abilities, some high, some low, some with a muddling middle sense of show. With the lion's share of the lines, Foy makes for a voluble stage presence.  He is passionate and persuasive. His performance is a high note.

Lara Rose Tansey is stolidly adept in her matronly manner as Liz Essendine, but it is hard to imagine Gary Essendine would ever fall for, let alone marry her.  This performance is mid-range. Corina Akeson has no trouble at all steaming up the set as Joanna Lyppiatt. She is particularly convincing in her role as a sexual predator, and the power of her performance makes Gary's surprising reaction to her dramatic final farewell all that much more revealing in terms of his character development.  The script characterizes Joanna as stereotypical.  To quote Shakespeare, she "kisses by the book." But then again, Ms. Akeson's performance is real 'page-burner.'

Seth Little embellishes his Roland Maule with an ample array of emotional nuances and amusing physical quirks.  His performance may not be quite as over the top as some might play this role, but he does a very good job of coming across as being more than a little bit off his rocker. Christofer Prichet as Morris Dixon and Paul Griggs as Henry Lyppiatt are warm bodies in  expensive suits.  It is difficult to distinguish their characters, because they don't do all that much with expressions or making a physical impression to extinguish the palpable sense that they are really the same character. Their performance is at the lower end of the scale.

In some respects, director Adam Henderson may be making the point that certain associates in any entourage may tend to be a bit redundant.  Then again, maybe Coward wrote them that way to accentuate his flamboyant lead character.  In any event, although a few of the performances in this production may be uneven, there is still a great deal to recommend.  In the end, it will leave you full of laughter, both present and enduring. RWE


Sophistication and elegance are the key words to Noël Coward's plays, and here, thanks to costume designers Jui Kang and Megan Kennedy, the play was able to exude the ambience of the period between the two world wars. Adam Henderson's fast-paced direction also contributed to another successful mise-en-scene of this period comedy.

I was most impressed by Edward Foy (Gary Essendine) whose line delivery was flawless. I also fancied Corina Akeson's portrayal of the seductive Joanna Lyppiatt. What a stark contrast from her role in George Walker's Motel in this year's Fringe. A fine actress indeed. I was amused likewise by Melanie Reich (Daphne Stillington) whose quivery edgy voice made for the hopelessly in love young 21-year old.

The supporting actors were terrific. The audience enjoyed the nutty Seth Little (Roland Maule), the ever-faithful wife Liz Essendine (Lara Rose Tansey), the Scandinavian maid Miss Erikson played with a perfect Swedish accent by Diana Sandberg, the ever-loyal secretary, Monica Reed (Rebecca Walters), the aristocratic Lady Saltburn (Christine McBeath), the theatrics of C. Christofer Pritchett (Morris Dixon), the comic gesticulations of Paul Griegs (Henry Lypiatt), and the facial expressions of Broadus Mattison (Fred).

Accolades to Sean Malmas for his set and Michael Methot for the lighting design. Kudos to Andree Karas for another fine production and an almost sold-out house last Sunday, November 11th. EF

© 2012 RW Eberle & Ed Farolan