The reason to see “Present Laughter” at the St. James Theatre is to personally experience Kevin Kline’s mastery of physical comedy, wordplay comedy and facial expression comedy. He is an amazing treasure and well worth the price of admission. His supporting cast is deft and a suitable foil but make no mistake, this is Kevin’s play.
Of course, it is also Noel Coward’s play but I am sorry to say, it has not aged well (assuming that Noel himself is in the same condition, but I digress). Written by Noel Coward for himself to star in, it works with a comic master such as Kevin Kline to give it breath, but the style is dated and would not do well as a new script today. Our attention spans are shorter, our laugh per page expectations higher and our scandal experiences far stronger.
Essentially, see it with Kevin Kline but be skeptical of any future productions without an equivalent master to guide it.