Lost Coward play makes its debut on Broadway

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As fans of Noel Coward and world-class acting flock to see Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman star in a West End revival of Private Lives on Broadway, more adventurous theatre-goers are savouring another of his plays that until recently no one had even heard of.

This week saw what was advertised as the "world première" of a sweet comedy set among high-society types on Long Island on the eve of the Second World War. Thissomewhat unexpected addition to the Coward oeuvre goes by the name of Long Island Sound.

And the critics seem to have liked it very much. "A fast, funny comedy about an innocent among the sharks," said Donald Lyons of the New York Post yesterday. The play has opened for a limited, off-Broadway run at the American Theater of Actors.

More interesting than the performances is the play's late blossoming. The play seems to have been lost among Coward's private papers until it was rediscovered only three years ago. The piece started out as a short story, written by Coward in 1939, entitled What Mad Pursuit. But, in 1947, he apparently expanded the work, converting it into a play and giving it a new name.

The comedy tells the tale of Evan Lorrimer, a distinguished British scribe who is whisked off for a "quiet" weekend at the Long Island home of a New York friend. Except that the weekend, invaded by a bevy of jolly young things, turns out to be not quiet at all.

Evan is played by Simon Jones, who is still best known in New York for playing opposite Joan Collins when Private Lives last ruled Broadway.

"This is a good 1930s farce, full of laughs and brilliantly staged and acted," the Post's critic gushed. "It makes a respectable addition to Coward's plays".

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