"waiting in the wings"

Published December 12, 1999


waiting in the wings. 12/12/99



(L to R) Elizabeth Wilson, Rosemary Murphy, Helena Carroll, Rosemary Harris, Lauren Bacall, Patricia Conolly, Bette Henritze

When Waiting in the Wings opened in London in 1960, the critic for The Observer wrote that the play is “an affectionate essay in gerontophilia, set in a charity home for impoverished actresses.”

It wasn’t until December 1999, the very month of Noël Coward’s 100th birthday, that the play finally reached New York, with a stellar cast led by Lauren Bacall and Rosemary Harris. Although it did not fare too well with the critics, that harshest critic of all, John Simon, called it “a delightful surprise … a minor gem in that bittersweet mode at which Coward excelled … a wise and compassionate address of the problems of aging and death that confront us all. There is wit, charity, stoicism and enormous theatrical know-how in Waiting in the Wings.” Simon called the production, directed by Michael Langham, “near-perfect” and wrote that “It provides the kind of civilizing pleasure that a less commercially greedy Broadway of yesteryear so satisfyingly offered. Here is soul-sustaining entertainment for anyone who can perceive that, even in a retirement home, all the stage is a world, one we all act on and must eventually bow out of without a curtain call. To miss Waiting in the Wings would be a major folly; not having a good time at it a virtual – no, a real – impossibility.”

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