Sunday, August 1, 2004

'Fallen Angels' is Ovation Theatre
at its very best

Theater review

By Jackie Demaline
Enquirer staff writer

If a summer sans theater is getting you down, Ovation Theatre has the cure, but only for one more week. Make time for a champagne-y couple of hours in the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater.

It's not the play, Noel Coward's trifle Fallen Angels, but the actresses who know just how to tilt their haloes, providing a brisk restorative to carry theatergoers through to Labor Day and the restart of the season.

It's 1932 in a marvelous London flat, and Corinne Mohlenhoff and Sunshine Cappelletti are delightful as glam friends who, in turn, have a mad passion for a certain Frenchman.

It's five years later now; they're each settled into marriage with stodgy but good Brit fellows who seem devoid of violent emotions. No wonder the girls are atwitter when the Frenchman sends a note to each of them to announce his imminent arrival.

Angels is girls night in, and Mohlenhoff and Cappelletti couldn't be better company. They gossip, they spat, they get royally drunk. They smoke beautifully and look utterly fabulous in Chad Phillips' costumes.

They play off each other effortlessly and pitch themselves into the comedy. Mohlenhoff has the slight edge. The ladies await their former lover in her character's drawing room, poshly envisioned by Gion DeFrancesco, so we get to see her morning-after hangover. And it's a doozy. Mohlenhoff also does starry-eyed anticipation better than anybody else acting on a Cincinnati stage.

But it's the actresses' teaming that makes the evening a fine summer night's entertainment. Coward is more or less slumming, just rearranging the pieces of Private Lives . The ladies' characters, one suspects, are inspired by Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest - so much so that Coward christens one couple "Banbury," just a vowel away from "Bunbury."

The men in their lives appear briefly and adequately. Hubbies Dennis McGovern and Kevin Kaddi could use a little more period style. Michael Monks is very tan as the cosmopolitan Maurice.

The primary support in Angels comes from a devil of a been there-done that maid who knows everything about everything. It's always a pleasure to see Mindy Siebert on stage, and she makes a terrific comedy foil as she goes about her duties and then some.

Floating just above the ground as weightless drawing room comedy should, this concoction is by far the best work I've seen from Ovation in years - and from director (and Ovation artistic director) Joe Stollenwerk ever. Strong casting makes the difference.

Fallen Angels, 2 p.m. today, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Fifth Third Bank Theater, Aronoff Center, 621-2787.


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