Victor Garber stars in Noël Coward's comedy.
What Is the Story of Present Laughter?
Present Laughter takes place in the home of famed actor Garry Essendine, a puffed-up charmer with a knack for histrionics, wooing women and extreme displays of vanity. With his birthday rapidly approaching, Essendine is poised to set off on a literal tour of Africa and a figurative midlife crisis, and his entire team—including an indifferent staff of servants, a wry personal secretary, a set of entangled business associates and a bemused ex-wife—is in hurried preparation for both. The actor’s expertly assembled life is upended when a predatory fan, an obsessed playwright and a young woman with more than Essendine’s resume on her mind are simultaneously thrown into the mix, all vying for the self-obsessed actor’s attention. As things spin wildly out of control, Essendine must scramble to keep his house of cards standing—and decide whether there’s room in his life to love anyone but himself.
What is Present Laughter Like?
Written as a semiautobiographical sketch (and send-up) of himself, Noel Coward’s Present Laughter is high comedy bordering on farce. As the evening gets rolling, what begins as a situational set-up for carefully worded one-liners craftily escalates into a series of increasingly ridiculous events, complete with slamming doors and ill-timed arrivals. Through it all, the style and tone remains distinctly Coward—even the most base insults are delivered with stylish poise, while genuine moments of tenderness and insight weave the whole piece together into a nice, neat package.
Is Present Laughter Good for Kids?
Despite the sexy nature of its star’s bad behavior, Present Laughter is rated PG, with barely any bare skin or sexual content to be found. As it’s classy Coward, there’s also no cursing—these are well-mannered shenanigans. That being said, the real comedy in Present Laughter is in the playwright’s wordplay, the actors’ delivery and the irony of its situations, meaning most of the funny stuff will fly over the heads of audience members too young to pay close attention. Save this one for ‘tweens and older teens.