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PLAYBILL®
FEBRUARY 1997             
VOLUME 97, NUMBER 2

4  On the Aisle, by Harry Haun
6  Theatre Quiz, by Andrew Gans
9  A Present of Laughter, by Harry Haun
12 What He Does for Love, by Mervyn Rothstein
15 ONSTAGE
32 At This Theatre, by Louis Botto
35 Theatre Scenes
39 A Theatregoer's Notebook, by Kathy Henderson
40 Taylor Made for Broadway, by Jerry Tallmer
44 Stage Directions from The League
45 Dining & Entertainment Guide
50 Celebrity Choice/After Theatre, by Bob Edison

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A Present of Laughter

Frank Langella's gloriously riotous performance in Noel Coward's Present Laughter bears the mark of a master stylist at work

[[image - photograph of Frank Langella]]

[[image - photograph of Frank Langella and Allison Janney-the not-so-estranged couple of Noel Coward's Present Laughter]]

Unlike Garry Essendine, the perpetually preening matinee idol he sends up in Noel Coward's Present Laughter, Frank Langella does his real-life living in a living room void of mirrors. Nothing floor-length or hand-held. Nothing covert or conspicuous. Nada. But this is not to say his likeness is not sufficiently represented. It is-in spectacular spades: Adorning every wall is a theatrical caricature that catches him at a particular high point in his career-Dracula, The Father, Sherlock's Last Case (as director), Design for Living, et al. Running dizzily around the room as they do, they start to resemble after a while an Al Hirschfeld fire sale, speaking volumes for a life well-spent in the theatre. 

"It's a very interesting thing to have people tell you that you're 'well-cast' or 'born to play this part'" he says, a smile playing his lips. "In point of fact, I play an egocentric, vain, self-involved, self-loving hedonist."

In short, an actor. And, surprisingly enough given his grand theatrical manner, it's only the second time in his life he has ever essayed a member of his profession. The other time was the Old Granddad of em' all-Junius Booth, patriarch of Edwin and John Wilkes-in an Austin Pendleton opus that played on a much darker side of the footlights than Present Laughter.

"Whenever I do comedy, people always say, 'I didn't know you do comedy.' I've actually done more of that than I've done serious plays. One should never down-grade it. There's nothing more exciting than doing this play and listening to people laugh with the gusto that they do. This is just as valid to me as doing a piece as shattering as The Father."

Be it comedy or drama, there is no question that, at 57 (just turned, the first day of this year), Langella is acting at the top of his art. Last season he pretty much capped the drama category with an elegant

by Harry Haun

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