Our humble playhouse is currently opening our fourth show of the season, “A Song at Twilight”. A new show it is not, it was written by Noel Coward back in the 1960’s and first went onstage in 1966, with aging writer Noel Coward himself starring as aging writer Hugo Latymer. In the show, Hugo is visited by an ex-mistress, Carlotta, who over a filet mignon dinner reveals to him that she posesses love letters he wrote many years ago…to a man. The man is now dead, but the letters are worth quite a lot, given Hugo’s impressive career and reputation, and she wants to give them to a biographer.
Hugo spends the second act pleading for the letters back and justifying his life choices, which have included marrying a woman and writing off the love of his life in his own memoirs as being “an adequate secretary”.
Hugo: The threat to expose to the world the fact that I have had, in the past, homosexual tendencies.
Carlotta: You’re queer as a coot and you have been all your life.
Naturally, the story is a bit autobiographical for Coward who lived his life with the closet door cracked open.
Through the hellacious production process for this show, I’ve heard a number of staff members complaining: “It’s outdated.” “It’s irrelevant.” “He just wrote it about himself, how egotistical.”
I want to say to the people who think the show is outdated or irrelevant: it’s nice that you think that. It’s really very sweet that you, dear liberal theater employee, think that it’s no big deal for a person to come to terms with their sexuality or for a public figure to be outed. Have things changed since 1966? Certainly. But if we look at recent coming out stories: that football player, that basketball player, Ellen Page, we can see that it is indeed a big dead when those people stand up in front of a microphone and say into the camera, I Am Gay. And can you imagine the scandal if one of the sports guys had gay love letters (love tweets?) leaked? Even though they might not have faced legal derailment, as Coward would have feared just a few years before “A Song at Twilight” debuted, their careers might not have survived the scandal. Although, if any of those people lived in Arizona, legal issues could become a very real fear for them.
As to the point that Noel Coward is an egotist for writing about his own experiences and portraying them himself…who else was going to tell his story? Literally everything in the world is about straight people, why can’t one homo stand in the spotlight for two hours with one fifteen minute intermission? Theater is for fags, anyways.
Straight people shouldn’t be allowed to create or consume art, I think. They don’t need it.
Now, if our lead actor could just remember his lines and the leading ladies could stop fighting backstage, we might have quite a meaningful show to put on.