Left: Sylvia Kratins as Carlotta Grey; Right: John Fisher as Hugo Latymer
“A Song at Twilight” is one of Noel Coward’s lesser known plays; not only is it thought to be autobiographical, but also may be considered the last of his prolific career as a playwright. Produced by Theatre Rhinoceros, “Song” can be seen at the ZSpace through January 31st. The play is set in a luxurious private hotel suite in Switzerland. It stars the marvelous Sylvia Kratins as retired actor Hugo Latymer’s sophisticated, elegant ex-wife, Carlotta Grey. John Fisher who also directed, plays flamboyantly gay- in gesture if not in dress- Hugo. In 1966, when the play was thought thought to have been written, a public figure like Hugo’s freedom would be compromised if his homosexuality was revealed. (The word “gay” was not in common usage, I think, until the 1970s.) Hugo has since remarried to a practical, business-like Hilde, a German-born woman. Hilde, played by Tamar Cohn, nails a perfect German-accented English as well as the language. (Cohn admitted to working with Ms Kratins on this as she is well-versed in at least three languages.) Single now, Carlotta had been married three times in the interim. She and Hugo had not seen each other in decades, both having been famous actors in the past. Their lives then and since have and do hold secrets as disclosed in their soon-to-be published autobiographies The plot involves the threat of blackmail. Seems Carlotta possesses letters written to Hugo by a former lover; she needles him about his closeted homosexuality. Her threat to have the letters published renders him flummoxed and speechless. Hilde and Carlotta bond over Hugo’s peccadillos and his inability to face the truth. Rather than chide and belittle him, they instead express empathy and understanding. The final scene holds a satisfactory resolution as Hugo and Carlotta reach an agreement. Hilde comes off as a loving “wife of convenience” which she knows she had been all along. An added pleasure is watching Marvin Peterle Rocha’s exquisite theatre debut performance as Felix, the hotel’s tuxedoed room service waiter. At the curtain call, the actors break into song- “A Song a Twilight, of course. Hugo and Carlotta execute a few ballroom dance moves, ending in a dip.
Do not miss this witty, sophisticated gem. A special performance date of tonight, Tuesday , Jan 26, at 7:00 pm has been scheduled. Other dates are Wed, Jan 27, Thurs, 28; Fri, 29; Sat 30, 8:00 PM. Matinees: Sat and Sun, Jan30, 31 @ 3:00 PM. Zspace Below, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco. www.therhino.org 1-866-811-4111
Left: John Fisher as Hugo Latymer; Right: Tamar Cohn as Hilde Latymer