Uncorks Noel Coward’s Sparkling Wit in
Hay Fever at the Babcock Theatre, November 5-14, 2010
Champagne is synonymous with elegance and savoir-vivre, style and refinement, imbued with romantic overtones, coupled with the giddiness of celebration and the bubbly anticipation of things to come. The same could be said of the work of playwright Noel Coward. This fall, the U Department of Theatre presents one of the most popular comedies of all time, Hay Fever, by Noel Coward, master of style and champagne wit. Directed by Sarah Shippobotham, Hay Fever will be presented in the Babcock Theatre, November 5-14.
In Hay Fever, each member of the eccentrically dysfunctional Bliss family—a retired actress, her novelist husband, and their two children—invites a guest to their country home for a weekend of indulgent glamour, unbeknownst to each other. As the unwitting visitors arrive in hopes of a romantic weekend, the stage is set for comic chaos. The misunderstandings and mishaps mount, and by Sunday morning the beleaguered guests are desperate to flee en masse, leaving the egotistical family so engaged in a blistering row that they fail to notice their clandestine departure. Hay Fever is a dizzying and dazzling portrait of self-absorption and volatility.
Coward—a playwright, composer, director, actor, spy (purportedly), nationalist, and propagandist—wrote Hay Fever in just three days at the ripe young age of 24. Considered one of his best and most enduring works, Hay Fever is a comedic masterpiece, filled with Coward’s brilliant wit and biting commentary on the theatrical profession. Director Sarah Shippobotham particularly loves this play “because it is a beautiful portrait of families—how we can all be dysfunctional and still love each other despite, and perhaps because of, our idiosyncrasies.”
Sparkling, brilliant, subtle, alluring, intense, exciting, deep—this could be a catalog of romance, or tasting notes for a great champagne. It also describes Judith Bliss, the reluctantly retired actress in Coward’s play. Actor Training Program student Elizabeth Summerhays plays this eccentric and dramatic character in the U Department of Theatre’s production. At the age of 34, Elizabeth’s not your “traditional” acting student. However, director Sarah Shippobotham finds that Elizabeth’s age and experience add a special nuance to her performance. Elizabeth says of her character Judith that “she doesn’t really want to be retired, and she’s having a hard time dealing with getting older. She wants to hold on to her youth, and I think this is something we all come to feel at one time or another.” Not unlike the famed character of Helen Sinclair in Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway,” Judith seduces young men to feed her need for the attention she once garnered as a Broadway star. “Playing Judith is a challenge because, emotionally, it takes a lot of stamina. She is always ‘on.’ She’s over the top, but in a very endearing way.”
Featuring some of Noel Coward’s wittiest dialogue, this champagne cocktail of a show will leave you giddy, laughing, and wanting more. Tickets for Hay Fever and Season Flexpasses for the U Deparment of Theatre’s 2010-2011 season can be purchased now by calling 801-581-7100, or online at www.kingtix.org
Publicity photos are available online at www.theatre.utah.edu/press