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'Brief Encounter': Mad about its style

By Peter Marks

When the theater goes to the movies, parody and satire tend to be its close companions. Witness the madcap antics of "The 39 Steps," the Hitchcock sendup still raking in laughs off-Broadway, or the caustic sneer of "Speed-the-Plow," David Mamet's comic slap at deal making in Hollywood.

Which is why the arrival on Broadway of "Brief Encounter" feels like such a beguilingly fresh event.

The enchanting British import, an inspiringly imaginative adaptation of the 1945 movie of the same title, opened Tuesday night at Roundabout Theatre Company's Studio 54. As conceived by director Emma Rice, the stage version offers a gentler tweaking of movie conventions, and movie romance in particular. It's a delightful meshing of slyness and pathos, a loving homage that still retains a keen sense of fun.

Annette McLaughlin, left, and Joseph Alessi in "Brief Encounter." (Joan Marcus / AP )

About the play's ability to honor Noel Coward's sensitive story-the chance, chaste affair of a proper doctor and a demure homemaker-and still cloak it in a cheeky veneer, I'll have more to say later this week, when I write comparatively about "Brief Encounter" and another new British production, "The Pitmen Painters." (That one opens on Broadway Thursday night.)

With performances of Coward songs ("Mad About the Boy," "Go Slow, Johnny") woven into the staging, the evening's bittersweet air is scented with panache.

By Peter Marks  | September 29, 2010; 8:59 AM ET
Categories:  Peter Marks, Reviews, Theater  | Tags:  Broadway Theater Coward Encounter  
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