"Relative Values" Noel Coward

At the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City Noel Coward's "Relative Values" is a comical look at changing and conflicting social values in aristocratic England in 1951. It's set entirely in the library of the Marshwood house in East Kent. We have an elegant set with antique furniture, elaborate wall panels, a balcony, and two elegant doorways. One leads into the house, the other into the garden, with climbing vines visible through the glass. As the play opens a crisis is in the works. Nigel, Earl of Marshwood is about to marry beneath himself, to an American actress. Further complicating the matter, his mother the Countess' personal maid, Moxie, is the long lost sister of the actress Miranda Frayle. Moxie is hysterical and preparing to leave, when a plot is worked out to make her an heiress living with the family. It goes well until Miranda starts telling of how she was raised in a London slum by a drunken mother and mean sister who has since died, after spending all the money Miranda has sent her over the years on booze. Moxie explodes and tells everyone she is Miranda's sister and sets the record straight about her mother and the "obstacles" that Miranda has overcome.
A lid is kept on the action, somewhat by the methodically scheming Countess, Felicity, and the droll, philosophical butler, Crestwell. These characters provide the anchor in the chaos and focus and direct the action. When Miranda's old boyfriend, the actor Don Lucas, shows up, it's Crestwell he encounters. We have the stark contrast of the young, familiar, desperately in love, American with the unflappable dry, class conscious butler. At this point, Felicity takes over. She makes sure Don stays around, with the intention of creating conflict and sending Miranda off with him. As she manipulates the events, Patricia Fraser's Felicity is flippant, snide, and entirely in control. When Miranda tells her "I'm not as stupid as you think I am." she replies "I'm glad." She explains to Miranda that Nigel is like his father in that "...he never looked twice at a woman unless she had a good streak of commoness." Libby George is a tremendous Moxie. Through all of her travails she only briefly forgets her station. In private, though she takes out all of her frustration on Crestwell. William Leach's Crestwell is the model of the upper crust English butler. Class distinctions are everything for him, and he's simply riding the storm out. At one point he says that, "In common with most of the human race, I know very little, but imagine I know a great deal." As the play reaches it's happy conclusion, he toasts Moxie and the "disintigration of the most unlikely dream...social equality." This delightful prooduction of Noel Coward's "Relative Values" continues, along with "Romeo and Juliet" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in The Randall Theater through September 5, at The Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City. Shakespeare's "King John" plays outdoors in the Adams Shakespearean Theater.

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