THE ALLEY THEATRE
Gregory Boyd, Artistic Director
Paul R. Tetreault, Managing Director
CELEBRATES 100 YEARS OF NOEL COWARD
WITH HIS COMEDY
By Noel Coward
Directed by Stephen Rayne
In celebration of the Noel Coward's Centennial, the Alley offers up one of his
best-known comedies directed by Stephen Rayne. The audience is invited to
spend a weekend in the country with the self-absorbed Bliss family. On this
particular holiday each family member has invited an unsuspecting romantic
prospect without informing the others and when the rain traps the family and their
guests indoors, the situation cannot remain unchaotic.
February 25 - March 25,2000
Alley Theatre, Large Stage
615 Texas Avenue
Tickets to Hay Fever can be purchased at the Alley Theatre Box Office, 615
Texas Avenue, or by calling 713-228-8421. Tickets to preview performances are
$19-35; tickets to performances on or after March 1 range from $32 - 49. Groups
of 1O or more can purchase tickets at a discounted rate by calling 713-228-934 1,
Directed by Stephen Rayne
SOREL BLISS..........................Michelle Federer
SIMON BLISS.........................Crispin Freeman
JUDITH BLISS.........................Monique Fowler
DAVID BLISS...........................Paul Vincent
SANDY TYRELL.............................Sean Dougherty
MYRA ARUNDEL.......................Carol Linnea Johnson
RICHARD GREATHAM.....................Paul Hope
JACKIE CORYTON...........................Luci Christian
CATCH HAY FEVER AT THE ALLEY THEATRE
THE CLEVER AND AMUSING BLISS FAMILY TAKES
DYSFUNCTIONALITY TO QUITE A DISTINCTIVE LEVEL
by Theresa Pisula
The Setting of Noel Coward's HAY FEVER is the hall of the Bliss Family Country home at Cookham, England in June 1925. The magnificent set (Scenic Design by Hugh Landwehr, who designed this season's A View From the Bridge) caught my eye as it displayed the family's baby grand piano by the royal blue carpeted staircase, past the Oriental Chandelier. The elegant living room is adorned with enchanting paintings, decorated with velvet drapes and well-cultivated art pieces. The early-turn-of -the-century furniture is accompanied by large, comfortable throw pillows.
The "Clever, Amusing, Splendid, Interesting, Extremely Nice-looking, Charming and Perfectly Sweet" Bliss Family (descriptive adjectives from the language of Noel Coward) welcomes the audience on a holiday weekend as they reveal their somewhat self-absorbed, eccentric side. The four Bliss Family members take Dysfunctionality to quite a distinctive level as they lure the unsuspecting guests into becoming romantic prospects.
However, to make a Noel Coward play very believable, one can't play it over the top, the actors shouldn't make caricatures of the characters. Certain members of the ensemble cast tried much too hard, they acted over-the-top instead of relying on Mr. Coward's genius to make the characters work. The parts of Sorel Bliss and Judith Bliss were so exaggerated that it weakened the ensemble cast. Noel Coward's work is highly sophisticated that to play it in a believable manner, one mustn't overstate it. I understand the family is crazy, but the element of sophistication is lost if they are played in a cartoonish, caricature manner.
But there are certain characters that did stand out: Richard Greatham played by Paul Hope, Luci Christian was very good as Jackie Coryton, the shy girl, and Myra Arundel played by Carol Linnea Johnson. Lillian Evans is very good and very funny as Clara the maid. Paul Vincent as the father David Bliss, was by far, the strongest performance.
Overall, the witty, sophisticated brilliant comedic work by Noel Coward will keep you entertained. Judith Bliss puts in a dramatic performance, "Life has dealt me another blow! But I'm not the sort of woman who will hold a man against his will," as she catches her husband in the arms of one of their guests. The after dinner evening gowns worn by Myra Arundel and Judith Bliss were sparkling and magnificent as the guests were forced to engage in word games for entertainment. Watching the activities of this Bohemian family is a delightful way to escape to 1920's England and it will make you feel really good about your own family, no matter how dreadful your family is.
ALLEY THEATRE CELEBRATES NOEL COWARD'S 100 BIRTHDAY WITH A PRODUCTION OF ONE OF HIS BEST-KNOWN COMEDIES
February 25 - March 25, 2000; Opening March 1, 2000
HOUSTON, Texas-The Alley Theatre brings laughter to the Large Stage with its
upcoming production of Noel Coward's comedy of bad manners, Hay Fever. Stephen Rayne-
director of this season's A View from the Bridge and A Christmas Carol-retums to direct.
Sponsored by The Humphreys Foundation and Arthur Andersen, Hay Fever starts previews
Friday, February 25 and runs through Sunday, March 25, with the official opening on
Wednesday, March 1.
Mr. Coward sends the audience on holiday with the eccentric and somewhat self-
absorbed Bliss farnity. The four Bliss family rnernbers spend the weekend in their country home,
and unbeknownst to each other, have each invited a romantic prospect. As the family members
each discover the increasing number of guests, and the unsuspecting romantic prospects begin to
arrive, the stage is set for comedy and chaos.
In celebration of what would have been the 100th birthday of the late prolific English
playwright, major revivals of Noel Coward's plays are currently scheduled in London, New
York, and throughout the world. With more than 50 produced plays, Mr. Coward is remembered
mostly as a witty, sophisticated and brilliant comedy writer, his most noted successes being The
Vortex (1924), Hay Fever (1925), Private Lives (1930), and Blithe Spirit (1941).
Hay Fever was written in three days by the then 25-year-old playwright after a visit to
America. The story is said to take inspiration from the author's many visits to the home of
actress Laurette Taylor and her husband Hartley Manners in the United States, a couple who
apparently forced their guests to engage in word games for entertainment. Hay Fever is
considered one of Mr. Coward's most enduring works because it was one of the first true
ensemble pieces that relied on each character and the situation in which they found themselves
rather than a simple plot device. The comedy has prevailed as one of Mr. Coward's most
popular and often-produced plays, playing on Broadway in 1931, 1970 and 1985.
In the cast, Alley Theatre Resident Company Actor Paul Hope is Richard Greatham. He
is joined by visiting artists Sean Dougherty as Sandy Tyrell, Michelle Federer as Sorel Bliss,
Monique Fowler as Judith Bliss, Crispin Freeman as Simon Bliss, Carol Linnea Johnson as Myra
Arundel and Paul Vincent as David Bliss, and local actors Luci Christian as Jackie Coryton and
Lillian Evans as Clara.
Hay Fever features scenic design by Hugh Landwehr, who designed this season's A
View from the Bridge; lighting designed by Pat Collins, who designed lighting for A View
from the Bridge; costume design by Jeanne Button and sound design by Alley Resident Sound
Designer Malcolm Nicholls.
The Alley Theatre, recipient of the 1996 Special Tony Award for outstanding regional
theatre, is a resident theatre company located in the heart of downtown Houston. Alley
productions have been seen throughout the United States and abroad. In 1998, the Alley Theatre
continued its commitment to international collaborations by joining Vanessa Redgrave and Corin
Redgrave's Moving Theatre of London to produce the world premiere production of Tennessee
Williams' early play Not About Nightingales at the Cottesioe Theatre in London. A
collaboration with the Moving Theatre and Royal National Theatre and directed by Trevor Nunn,
Not About Nightingales made its U.S. debut at the Alley Theatre in June 1998 and went on to
open at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway in the Spring of 1999. Featuring two
Alley actors in principal roles, Not About Nightingales was nominated for a Tony Award for
Best Play. The Alley began its 1998-99 season with the world premiere of an original and
unique musical event entitled The Civil War by Gregory Boyd, Jack Murphy and Frank
Wildhorn (composer of Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel). The Civil War (Tony
Award nomination, Best Musical) also went on to a run at Broadway's St. James Theatre in
April, 1999, making it the second Alley offering to open on Broadway that season, and is
currently on a national tour.
For the 1999-2000 season, Gregory Boyd, the Alley Theatre Artistic Director has chosen
to include a juxtaposition of the new, the contemporary and the classic-including a trio of new
plays by three writers making their Alley debuts: Lemonade, a world premiere by Eve Ensler,
As Bees in Honey Drown, a brilliant comedy by Douglas Carter Beane, and Margaret Edson's
1999 Pulitzer Prize winner Wit. Alongside these are three modem masters who helped defme
20th century playwriting: Arthur Miller, Noel Coward and Edward Albee, whose new play The
Play About the Baby will make its American premiere at the Alley in April 2000.
Tickets for Hay Fever are on sale now at the Alley Theatre Box Office, 615 Texas
tickets to performances on or after the Wednesday, March 1 opening range from $32-49. Groups
of 10 persons or more can purchase tickets at a discounted rate by calling 713 -229-9341, ext. 350.
SPECIAL PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
SIGNING, CAPTIONING, & AUDIO DESCRIPTION
The Alley Theatre continues its efforts to make its productions available to broader
audiences by offering a perfomance for patrons with signing, captioning and audio description at
2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 19.
The Alley Theatre welcomes non English-speaking patrons to two special performances
of Hay Fever. Live Spanish-translated performances of the play are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and
7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5. Two interpreters will sit in the Alley's sound and lighting booth and
translate dialogue into Spanish. Through the use of the infrared listening system and headphones, Spanish-speaking guests will be able to enjoy the show.
TALK TO THE ARTISTS
Alley patrons are invited to attend three post-show Talk Backs with the cast and members
of the artistic staff on Thursday, March 2; Wednesday, March 8; and Friday, March 10.
615 Texas Avenue Houston, Texas 77002-2795 - Administrative Offices: 713-228-9341, Fax:
Box Office: 713-228-8421 - TTY-. 713-990-5710
Continental Airlines is the official airline of the Alley Theatre.