Laguna Playhouse is finishing up a production of Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels.” The cast did a superb job with this classic farce originally written in 1925. You know good material from bad when the humor resonates 88 years later. This is the case with “Fallen Angels,” unlike “Pet Peeves,” where the reader prefers after 88 words to go to the dentist for an unscheduled root canal. For the record you are almost, almost, almost, almost, almost, almost to the finish line and can now make that appointment. That’s 88 words in. “Whew, I’d like to schedule an appointment for Crantz. Pull all his teeth. No, he doesn’t need laughing gas. He doesn’t get funny. Use the gas on yourself, doc. You’ll need it around him.”
For those readers still reading, it may come as a surprise, but I do know a thing or two about the theater. In college, I had a double major. I was a drama major and a drama queen. I craved attention. I was happiest under the spotlight. I clearly remember my first college spotlight shining from a local police cruiser, as I was getting the last nut off a downtown barber pole. The police gave chase to me and two long hair friends, who had sworn 15 minutes earlier that if any of us got caught, mom was the word. We sealed the deal with a shake and a shot. After a grueling three-hour chase, I made it back to the dorm to learn that one friend had been caught and given me up in the first five minutes of my three-hour cat and mouse pursuit. Later I learned my friend was an orphan and swearing on mom came easy to him. The police, who had moms who had taken them for their first haircut, swore to preserve and protect these sacred Kodak moments by driving me to ground even though they had my name. Later I learned there was no love lost between ‘townies and gownies.’ The police turned me over to the dean of academic affairs for further instruction. The dean didn’t think I was funny and threatened to expel me on my first week of college, whereby he informed me that I would then lose my student deferment and end up drafted to the Vietnam War with a nice short haircut, which appears to be what I wanted in the first place. “That’s irony and I’d be happy to oblige” chuckled the dean.
I liked my long hair and asked for a second chance. He gave me community service instead. I was sent to the theater department to help in the production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” This is a black comedy about the Brewster sisters who kill older gentlemen out of charity because the sisters believe they have nothing more to live for. Their nephew, Teddy believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and is digging out the Panama Canal in the cellar, which actually serves as graves for the eleven or twelve gents done in by elderberry wine spiked with arsenic. A popular college history professor played the part of Teddy. My community service was to help him make fast pace costume changes so he could make his entrances and exits on time. The work was very up close and personal. We both decided at the play’s final curtain call that history should not repeat itself. He went back to the history department. I enrolled in the drama department. And for the ensuing four years, we dressed and undressed ourselves in private lives, which come to think of it, is another great Noel Coward gem.
Catch “Fallen Angels.” It runs through Nov. 3. If you promise to go, it will give me one last chance, while you’re being entertained, to get a barber pole I have my eye on. “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” according to Karl Marx, who sorely needed a haircut. Now that’s irony. Back at you Dean.
Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago. He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.” His recently deceased Border Collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.