PRESENT LAUGHTER by Noel Coward. See listings, page 62. Rating: NNNN
Garry Essendine, the central figure in Noel Coward's Present Laughter, is both monster and child, a matinee idol with a vain, overweening yet charming theatrical ego. Juan Chioran radiates charisma in the current Soulpepper production, making Garry an alternately irritating and endearing figure who evokes swoons from those who know him from afar and a sometimes rough coddling from those closer to home.
It's a rich performance -- Chioran, usually in elegant dressing gown or smart evening clothes, can hardly go by a mirror without preening -- and he's surrounded by a generally strong cast who make the most of the comedy, though there are some dry patches in director Joseph Ziegler's first act. Best of the planets rotating around Garry's star are a trio of women -- Nancy Palk as his droll secretary, Martha Burns as his cool, plotting wife and Brenda Robins as a friend's predatory and sexy spouse.