If you want to see where vintage sitcoms like Friends and Frasier come from, Noel Coward is your man. Coward was a Jazz Age Oscar Wilde, albeit with more sex and a blunter wit. In Fallen Angels, he quickly gets the situational ball rolling: an offhand remark between a young husband and wife begs the question of how falling and being in love differ. When the husband goes off on a golfing jaunt with his best friend, their two wives are united by the discovery that a man both women shared before they were married is on his way to town.
What will they do? Farce plays best at a breakneck speed where circumstances take over and judgment, as well as believability, are happily out the window. Director William Brown’s production is hampered by a three-act structure, with two intermissions. The action resembles a bell curve, with a rather deliberate set-up, an antic middle, featuring a hilarious drunk scene, followed by a denouement that’s more wry than raucous. There’s too much time to think about what’s going on.
As the besotted wives, Cristina Panfilio and Kelsey Brennan, seem to have just two gears, shrill and shriller. But Susan Felder’s Saunders, the household chief, cook and bottlewasher, is a delight — a woman with a treasure trove for a past, equally capable of mixing a great martini and playing flamenco guitar. Through April 15 at Indiana Repertory Theatre.