By Christopher Trela | NB Indy
Andy Barnicle has a “thing” for Noel Coward, but it’s a good thing.
Two years ago, Barnicle directed an acclaimed production of Coward’s landmark play “Private Lives” at Laguna Playhouse. It was Barnicle’s swan song that marked the end of a two-decade tenure as artistic director of The Playhouse.
Now, two years later, Barnicle is back at Laguna Playhouse, but this time instead of working behind the scenes, Barnicle is on stage acting in a production of Coward’s seldom-seen “Fallen Angels” that opens this weekend and runs through Nov. 3.
Most people don’t know that in addition to being a director, Barnicle is an accomplished actor who has been seen on stages throughout southern California.
He acted in a number of plays at Laguna Playhouse; his last role at the theatre was in “Ice Breaker” in 2007.
Ironically, Barnicle was directing a Coward play at Chapman University in Orange last month when he accepted a role in “Fallen Angels.”
“This is an early Coward play, 1925, and it’s filled with Cowardisms like you might expect, but it’s more farcical and very ahead of its time,” explained Barnicle during a recent interview prior to a rehearsal. “It’s about two housewives who both had an affair with a Frenchman before they got married. Their husbands are best friends, and they all live in the same apartment building. The Frenchman contacts them, they both get drunk and have a fight about it, and one of them disappears for the night. It has a lot of things you wouldn’t expect of a play in 1925.”
Barnicle plays one of the husbands, a gruff, uptight businessman.
“He’s very jealous and protective and indignant,” said Barnicle. “My character teams up with the other wife to find the one that disappeared, but meantime the other husband teams up with my wife to find the one who disappeared. It’s very interesting, to say the least.”
Although Barnicle has had a chance to flex his acting chops recently, he noted that it’s been a while since he’s had to affect an accent in a play, and its taken a bit of practice to get it right.
“With a British accent, RP, or standard received pronunciation, it requires a good deal of concentration to make sure it remains constant,” he noted. “It’s hard to stay in the moment and say the words right. Sometimes I wonder if I just said ‘can’t’ with a New York accent.”
“I’m a replacement cast member,” added Barnicle. “The show played Pasadena Playhouse earlier this year, but three out of five roles dropped out when the play transferred to Laguna. So the production has a history; two of the actors and the director know the rhythm of the piece. I learn from them things like when to hold because we’re going to get a laugh. That saves a lot of time. I’ll still have to make some discoveries as an actor, but I don’t have the funniest part. The women are hilarious, absolutely hilarious.”
While acting has its own challenges, Branicle said it was nice to just worry about his role and not deal with everything that comes with directing a play.
Barnicle suggested that “Fallen Angels” would be a crowd-pleaser at the Laguna Playhouse.
“Even if you’re not familiar with the play, if you know Noel Coward, or enjoyed ‘Private Lives’ here, you’re going to like ‘Fallen Angels.'”
Tickets are $36 – $66. Visit lagunaplayhouse.com or call (949) 497-ARTS (2787).