Comedy of Manners



audio Hay Fever

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

A country house weekend goes haywire when the guests and their hosts play a game of romantic musical chairs. A most delightful madcap comedy.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Tate Donovan, Arabella Field, Joy Gregory, Jeffrey Jones, Lynne Marta, Serena Scott Thomas, Carolyn Seymour, Eric Stoltz and Simon Templeman.

Featuring: Tate Donovan, Arabella Field, Joy Gregory, Jeffrey Jones, Lynne Marta, Serena Scott Thomas, Carolyn Seymour, Eric Stoltz, Simon Templeman

audio An Ideal Husband

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

A tender love story, a serpentine villainess, a glittering setting in London society and a shower of Wildean witticisms are only a few of the reasons this play has enjoyed hugely successful revivals in London and New York. This 1895 drama also seems eerily prescient, as it explores the plight of a promising young politician, desperate to hide a secret in his past. With empathy and wit, Wilde explores the pitfalls of holding public figures to higher standards than the rest of us.

Includes an interview with Michael Hackett, the Chair of the Department of Theater at the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition to his extensive directorial work for L.A. Theatre Works - which includes plays by Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, and Noel Coward - Michael has directed for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; the Royal Theatre at the Hague; and the Los Angeles Opera. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Rosalind Ayres as Lady Gertrude Chiltern Jacqueline Bisset as Mrs. Cheveley Paul Gutrecht as Vicomte de Nanjac Martin Jarvis as Sir Robert Chiltern Robert Machray as Phipps Miriam Margolyes as Lady Markby Alfred Molina as Lord Goring Jim Norton as Lord Caversham Yeardley Smith as Mabel Chiltern Directed by Michael Hackett.

Featuring: Rosalind Ayres, Jacqueline Bisset, Paul Gutrecht, Martin Jarvis, Robert Machray, Miriam Margolyes, Alfred Molina, Jim Norton, Yeardley Smith

audio The Importance of Being Earnest

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

This final play from the pen of Oscar Wilde is a stylish send-up of Victorian courtship and manners, complete with assumed names, mistaken lovers, and a lost handbag. Jack and Algernon are best friends, both wooing ladies who think their names are Ernest, “that name which inspires absolute confidence.” Wilde’s effervescent wit, scathing social satire, and high farce make this one of the most cherished plays in the English language.

Includes an interview with director Michael Hackett, Professor of Theater in the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: James Marsters as Jack Charles Busch as Lady Bracknell Emily Bergl as Cecily Neil Dickson as Lane and Merriman Jill Gascoine as Miss Prism Christopher Neame as Chasuble Matthew Wolf as Algernon Sarah Zimmerman as Gwendolen Directed by Michael Hackett. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Featuring: Emily Bergl, Charles Busch, Neil Dickson, Jill Gascoine, James Marsters, Christopher Neame, Matthew Wolf, Sarah Zimmerman

The Importance of Being Earnest (New Mermaids)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is presented here in the New Mermaids series, complete with its scholarly annotation and context.

Wilde’s ‘trivial play for serious people’, a sparkling comedy of manners, is the epitome of wit and style. The play employs and parodies the conventions of romance, farce and melodrama: identities are discovered, long lost family ties reinstated, and coincidences are savoured.

John (‘Jack’) Worthing lives in the country with his ward Cecily, and her governess, Miss Prism. There he is an exemplary character, a sober and upright member of the community and a Justice of the Peace. But he spends as much time as he can in London, claiming that he has a scapegrace of a younger brother, Ernest, whose frequent scrapes call for Jack’s attendance in town. There, Jack is known to his friends – including Algernon Moncrieff – as Ernest. Algernon, as it happens, has invented a permanent invalid called Bunbury, whose frequent crises of health give Algernon an excuse to gallivanting round the country. When Algernon turns up at Jack’s country house, claiming to be ‘Ernest’, and Jack arrives to announce the death of his dissipated brother, their double lives begin to catch up with them.

The verbal brilliance of the play's highly self-conscious characters hides deep anxieties about social and personal identity. This neatly constructed satire, with its celebrated characters and much quoted dialogue, turns accepted ideas inside out and is generally regarded as Wilde’s masterpiece.

audio Lady Windermere's Fan

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The irreverent satire that launched Wilde’s succession of classical comedies. A Lord, his wife, her admirer and an infamous blackmailer converge in this delicious comic feast of scandal. A divinely funny comedy of good girls, bad husbands and the moral hypocrisy of British high society in the late nineteenth century.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Gina Field as Lady Agatha Carlisle Judy Geeson as Lady Plymdale Joanna Going as Lady Windermere Arthur Hanket as Mr. Cecil Graham Lisa Harrow as Mrs. Erlynne Dominic Keating as Mr. Hopper Miriam Margolyes as The Duchess of Berwick Roger Rees as Lord Windermere Eric Stoltz as Lord Darlington James Warwick as Lord Augustus Lorton Tom Wheatley as Parker Directed by Michael Hackett. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Featuring: Gina Field, Judy Geeson, Joanna Going, Arthur Hanket, Lisa Harrow, Dominic Keating, Miriam Margolyes, Roger Rees, Eric Stoltz, James Warwick, Tom Wheatley

audio The Liar

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The Liar by Pierre Corneille, translated by Richard Wilbur. Directed by Martin Jarvis.

In this classic farce, a young man pretends to be a war hero to impress a pretty girl. As his lies progress, so do his troubles – with hilarious results. Playwright Pierre Corneille’s comedy of manners is considered a groundbreaking work which influenced contemporaries such as the young Molière.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast production, starring Tara Lynne Barr, Janine Barris, Sue Cremin, Danny Mann, Christopher Neame, John Sloan, Mark Sullivan, and Matthew Wolf

Includes a conversation about Corneille and French drama with Larry F. Norman of the University of Chicago.

Lead funding for this production is provided by the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.

Featuring: Tara Barr, Janine Barris, Sue Cremin, Danny Mann, Christopher Neame, John Sloan, Mark Sullivan, Matthew Wolf

Nude With Violin

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When world-famous painter Paul Sorodin dies it is, for his friends, a tragedy, but for the world, a catastrophe. Adding to the trauma of the loss it seems, at first, that the master left no will, meaning his wife, estranged from the great man for more than twenty years, is set to pocket his entire lucrative estate, the proceeds from a lifetime of producing renowned and valuable art.

However, Sorodin's bereaved friend and valet Sebastien does produce a will, sent to him personally by the great painter, which states unequivocally that while his estate will go to his wife, that estate is worth nothing – for Sorodin was a life-long and inveterate fraud who never painted a picture in his life.

Written originally as a vehicle for Sir John Gielgud who directed and starred in the play's premiere at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 1956, Nude with Violin is a light comedy of manners that reflects on the nature of art and its value, and cost, to society.

Present Laughter

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Present Laughter is witty, sparkling and eminently theatrical; its star is matinée idol Garry Essendine, suave, hedonistic and too old, says his wife, to be having numerous affairs. His line in eager, adoring debutantes is largely tolerated among his small circle of intimate friends, but playing closer to home is not. Just before he escapes on tour to Africa, the curtain is drawn back on a whole tangle of his misdemeanours.

In between hustling infatuated conquests out of sight into the spare room, Garry gives a dazzling performance, centre stage in a light, charming, farcical comedy.

Arguably the most autobiographical of his plays, Present Laughter provided a perfect platform for Coward’s talents, both directing and starring as Garry. It was first performed in 1942 at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool.

audio Present Laughter

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

A gallery of friends, lovers, relatives and theatre acolytes sparkle around stage star Garry Essendine like bubbles in fine champagne. While Garry struggles to plan his upcoming trip to Africa, his elegant London flat is invaded by a love struck ingénue, an adulterous producer and a married seductress–not to mention Garry’s estranged wife Liz and the memorable Roland Maule, an aspiring playwright who is quite, quite mad.

"Present Laughter is a very light comedy and was written with the sensible object of providing me with a bravura part.”

Noël Coward

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Gregory Cooke, Arthur Hanket, Jon Matthews, Ian Oglivy, Siri O'Neal, Christina Pickles, Carolyn Seymour and Yeardley Smith.

Featuring: Gregory Cooke, Arthur Hanket, Jon Matthews, Ian Oglivy, Siri O'Neal, Christina Pickles, Carolyn Seymour, Yeardley Smith

audio Private Lives

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The lights of a yacht on the French Riviera are reflected in the water and in the eyes of four hilariously mismatched lovers. Private Lives shimmers with wit, romance, desire and bittersweet truth.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Rosalind Ayres, Marnie Mosiman, Ian Ogilvy, Begonya Piazza and Kristoffer Tabori.

Featuring: Rosalind Ayres, Marnie Mosiman, Ian Ogilvy, Begonya Piazza, Kristoffer Tabori

A comedy of manners is a form of sophisticated comedy, usually set among the fashionable upper classes, in which the characters’ machinations are veiled by their elegant manners and elaborate repartee. The genre can be traced back to the Greek New Comedy but in its modern form was essentially created by Molière in such plays as Les Précieuses ridicules (1658) and Le Médecin malgré lui (1666). In England the genre flowered after the Restoration, following the success of George Etherege’s The Comical Revenge; or, Love in a Tub (1664). English-language examples include Wycherley’s The Gentleman Dancingmaster (1671), Vanbrugh’s The Provok’d Wife (1697), Congreve’s The Way of the World (1700), Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem (1707), Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer (1773), and Sheridan’s The School for Scandal (1777). The elegant wit of the comedy of manners was revived in the late 19th century by Oscar Wilde in such plays as Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). In the 20th century some of the plays of Noël Coward, such as Private Lives (1930), belong to this genre.

from Jonathan Law ed., The Methuen Drama Dictionary of the Theatre (London, 2011)