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NAVESINK: PLAYERS WRAP UP A ‘PRESENT’

MonPlayersEric McDonough (center) and his fellow Monmouth Players serve up Noel Coward’s PRESENT LAUGHTER at the Navesink Arts Center.

Way back in 1953, a fledgling theatrical troupe by the name of Monmouth Players chose as its first fully staged production Blithe Spirit, a comedy from the quill of actor-director-producer-playwright-songwriter Noel Coward. Here at the close of its frankly astonishing 62nd consecutive season of entertainments — a track record unequalled by any other community stage company in the area — the Middletown-based Players have revisited the work of that master multitasker with a production of Coward’s Present Laughter that wraps up the 2014-2015 season in an elegant (and mischievously ticking) package.

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RED BANK: PUTTING ON A SHOW

A video spotlights some of the detail work that went into staging the Two River Theater‘s season-wrapping play, a production of Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter.’ The show, now in previews, opens at the illustrious Red Bank showcase Friday night and runs through June 23. Tickets here. (Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: CUMPSTY DONS COWARD’S ROBE

Tony nominee Michael Cumpsty, left is at the center of a “vortex of neurosis,” as Nöel Coward’s “Present Laughter” comes to Two River Theater in a production directed by “Frasier” co-creator David Lee, right. 

By TOM CHESEK

Just about one year ago, actor Michael Cumpsty — then a Tony nominee for his role as Judy Garland’s accompanist in the Broadway engagement of “End of the Rainbow” — stood on the stage of Red Bank’s Two River Theater and introduced the project that “will bring me back to Red Bank, which is where I want to be.”

The project in question is “Present Laughter,” the 1942 comedy by the multifaceted Sir Noël Coward, and a play that Cumpsty described as being about “an aging matinee idol, who throws everyone around him into a vortex of neurosis… kind of like [my] life.”

Beginning Saturday and for the next three weekends, the British-born veteran of more than 20 Broadway shows — and screen parts that include Nucky Thompson’s associate Father Ed Brennan on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” — steps into the role of Garry Essendine: frothy farceur, master manipulator, debonair devil, and a character written by Coward as “a bravura part” for himself.

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