In a trip to New York City this past week to visit my son, we decided to get tickets to Noel Coward’s play Brief Encounter, which is playing at the Roundabout Theatre, the former Studio 54. The 1945 movie by the same name has always been a favorite of mine; I think I have seen it about six times as it comes on late night television from time to time. I admit it is a sappy, sentimental story geared to incurable romantics such as myself, but when I heard that it has become a Broadway play, I immediately wanted to see it.
Well, they have certainly given a new take to Brief Encounter. I haven’t figured out yet whether the production is a spoof of the movie or just an attempt to add some comedy to what might otherwise be a dull evening for the theatre patrons. I enjoyed it nevertheless even with its added scenarios.
The original story is the tale of Laura, a bored housewife, who takes the train into the city every Thursday to shop and take in a movie. On one of her waits in the train station, she meets a handsome doctor, Alec, who kindly takes a piece of grit out of her eye. Each Thursday, they meet again and form a bond which eventually brings them to secret trysts in the apartment of Alec’s friend. They both know that there is no future for their love affair as each is married with children and cannot break away from their responsibilities to their family.
That is the sum total of the original piece created by Noel Coward. The current play has added music, all of which are Noel Coward’s tunes, and also comedy surrounding the employees and patrons of the coffee shop in the train station. Much of the comedy is slapstick and does serve to lighten the rather morose story of the doomed lovers, but it is blatant in its attempt to do so.
It may be that a love story from 1945 may seem corny to today’s sophisticated playgoers or it may be an attempt by the writer and director (listed as Emma Rice) to appeal to an audience who would be loathe to sit through a painful couple of hours with lovers who know they are heading for disaster.
I have ordered the movie from Netflix to try to detect whether it is a sappy story and if I am the only one who is taken in by such heartrending palaver. The play has certainly opened my eyes to the possibility that I may be out of step with the rest of the world.
Playbill – Brief Encounter