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Present Laughter 

When: May 26-28, 8 p.m., Sun., May 30, 8 p.m., Mon., May 31, 3:30 & 8:30 p.m., Tue., June 1, 8:30 p.m., Wed., June 2, 8 p.m., Fri., June 4, 8 p.m., Sat., June 5, 3:30 p.m., Sun., June 6, 3:30 & 8:30 p.m., Tue., June 8, 8 p.m., Wed., June 9, 3:30 & 8:30 p.m., Fri., June 11, 3:30 & 8:30 p.m., Sat., June 12, 3:30 p.m. and Sun., June 13, 3:30 p.m. 2010
Price: $40-$75

Noël Coward’s brilliant comedy of manners is elegantly staged and luxuriously costumed, a delight of barbed witticisms, ironic comedy, and, upon occasion, chaotic farce. Sponsored by First Citizens and presented by Spoleto Festival USA. Approximately two hours 45 minutes.

The Gate Theatre needs no introduction
But just in case you're a newbie, we'll give you one. It's the Irish troupe's seventh appearance at Spoleto, and festival regulars will snatch up tickets based on their past performances alone. Their most recent include A Constant Wife in 2007, Pride and Prejudice in 2003, and The Bear in 2002. They're huge in their hometown of Dublin, too, where they've been churning out quality theater since 1928.

Present Laughter sold out in Dublin last year
Noël Coward's comedy of manners, first staged in 1942, is a self-caricature about aging stage star Garry Essendine (played by Stephen Brennan) and the strange people who surround him. Insider tip: The play's title comes from a song in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night ("present mirth hath present laughter"), thus the word present should be pronounced as the adjective, not the verb.

Expect hollywood-quality costumes
Peter O'Brien is behind the play's lavish 1940s-era costumes, and some reviewers say they almost steal the show. Snappy suits, elaborate gowns, hats, and red lips are de rigueur.

— Erica Jackson


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