Centenary Stage has revived a rare antique in Terence Rattigan’s boulevard comedy “While the Sun Shines.” The play ran for three years in London’s West End but lasted for a mere 39 performances on Broadway. It’s a brittle and bright but dated trifle that requires a certain style and technique not always present here.
Set in London during World War II, the farcical souffle concerns a wealthy young sailor and earl, Bobby (Steve Barron), who is about to be married to Lady Elizabeth (Jessica Baron), a sweet young WAF clerk. Bobby offers the use of his posh Albany flat while he is honeymooning to an American bombardier (Ken Krugman). In a case of mistaken identity, the flier woos the intended bride, thinking she is a floozy provided by his host.
Also in hot pursuit of Lady Elizabeth is a characteristicly French officer (Allen Lewis Rickman), who met the earl’s affianced on a train and is also looking for a temporary flat in which to roost.
Rattigan’s flippant dialogue is typical of the period (P.G. Wodehouse, Noel Coward and Douglas Home come to mind), prompting more polite chuckles than belly laughs.
Baron provides a sweet account of the confused bride-to-be, and her three ardently pursuant gentlemen carry on with the right balance of confusion and witty surface shimmer. Wayne Gordon, as the droll butler, fails to mine the role for its sly asides and double-takes.
Director Carl Wallnau has made some awkward choices, directing his actors to take lengthy journeys around a sprawling sofa to arrive at a telephone they had been sitting near. While scotch and gin is freely poured from dawn till dusk, most of the players barely wet their lips, taking teeny sips from their glasses.
The set serves as reasonably sturdy and fashionable bachelor’s quarters, but the players are often crammed uncomfortably upon doorsteps and appear to squeeze through a partly opened bedroom door as if there were no room for them on the other side. The clumsiness prompted one to conjure thoughts of what might be happening backstage. The unseen pandemonium of “Noises Off” comes to mind.