Hay Fever
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Kim Taylor

Ross Valley Players is currently performing an excellent production of Noel Coward’s British comedy Hay Fever. This satiric look, at an upper middle class eccentric family in 1925 Cookham, will have you rolling with laughter.

David Bliss (Alan Weber) is a popular novelist who supports his family rather well with his published writings. In fact the rest of the family has ample leisure time to pursue such endeavors as flower naming, drawing and flirting with the opposite sex. The latter is something that not only David’s son Simon (Richard Steenson) and daughter Sorel (Pilar Kuhn) pursue; even David and his wife Judith (Susan Warwick) actively flirt with anyone but their spouse.

These flirtations are the basis of the comedy and when every member of the family invites a secret admirer over on the same weekend, the wacky mayhem of free love is pushed to the absurd and the invitees soon look for a means to escape this wild and crazy family.

Yet as satirical as the Bliss family is, including their name, the audience can’t help but like them in a strange sort of way. They are after all a family, and for all their wild flirtations, they remain a solid unit that seems to love and understand each member of the family in their own peculiar way. Perhaps the critic and writer Joseph T. Shipley said it best when he wrote: “Noel Coward may, as some of his critics aver, enjoy the society he is satirizing. Precisely! For the best satire – not savage, but sunny and supple and searching – is based on the excesses of those we love.”

Because the author’s love for these characters shines through the satire, the audience feels for them, and the audience’s laughter becomes the wholesome life-affirming laughter of one family member laughing at another. The laughter is not meant to be hurtful but simply to celebrate the joy of knowing a unique character full of human foibles.

For tickets or information call the Ross Valley Players at (415) 456-9555.

For all you Noel Coward fans that want more. After seeing Hay Fever, why not try An Evening With Noel Coward at the Pacific Alliance Theatre at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park (707) 588-3400?

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