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Kneehigh Theatre’s “Brief Encounter” at Studio 54

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Roundabout Theatre Company

Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
et al.

Kneehigh Theatre’s Production of
Noël Coward’s
Brief Encounter
(Noël Coward Bio)

Adapted and Directed by
Emma Rice
(from the Coward’s play “Still Life and screenplay “Brief Encounter”

Studio 54
(Studio 54 Website)
254 West 54th Street

Joseph Alessi, Dorothy Atkinson, Damon Daunno,
Gabriel Ebert, Edward Jay, Annette McLaughlin,
Adam Pleeth, Tristan Sturrock, Hannah Yelland

Set & Costume Design: Neil Murray
Lighting Design: Malcolm Rippeth
Sound Design: Simon Baker
Projection Design: John Driscoll
& Gemma Carrington
Original Music: Stu Barker
Production Stage Manager: Peter Hanson
UK Casting: Sam Jones
US Casting: Jim Carnahan CSA & Stephen Kopel
Technical Supervisor: Steve Beers
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
General Manager: Sydney Beers
Director of Marketing & Sales: David B. Steffen
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 1, 2010

What an incredible pleasure Brief Encounter was, and Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto is still swirling in my mind. David Lean’s 1945 British film (which I can’t wait to see), with Noël Coward’s screenplay, based on his 1936 one-act play, Still Life, has been adapted and directed by Emma Rice for Kneehigh Theatre in London. The Kneehigh production came to New York, via Brooklyn, and then Roundabout’s Studio 54. It’s a play within a media fantasy, with projections of suffocating in marriage and drowning in love, as Laura (Hannah Yelland) and Alec (Tristan Sturrock) move from stage to screen, much like Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo, only with the element of passion thrown in.

Noël Coward’s songs, like “Wide Lagoon”, “Romantic Fool”, “So Good at Love’, and “Always”, support the upbeat fantasy of the experience of love. Although that love is repressed and unrequited, in the case of Laura and Alec, its powerful effect moves other characters to take bold steps as well, bolder than those available to the lovelorn duo. The shop at the train station, where Alec (a doctor) first removed a speck of dust from Laura’s eye, is the scene of some wittier relationships, between Myrtle (Annette McLaughlin, proprietor of a tea shop), Albert (Joseph Alessi, conductor), Beryl (Dorothy Atkinson, a tea shop manager), and Stanley (Gabriel Ebert, in charge of the candy). Joseph Alessi portrays both Fred, Laura’s stiff, boring husband, and Albert, the lively conductor. Each actor is so immersed in the role that the fantasy draws the audience in.

Neil Murray’s sets and costumes are fanciful and uncluttered, while Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington’s projections are transporting and mesmerizing. The vocal talent of the cast, in the nine Noël Coward songs, was exceptional, and Stu Barker’s music was creative and clever. As I said before, I can’t wait to see the film, and I’ll look for the “Rach II” Concerto in the concert halls. Kudos to Kneehigh Theater, and kudos to Noël Coward.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at