Shared from the 2017-03-29 Chattanooga eEdition

Kevin Kline: Farce looks easy but it’s certainly not

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Kevin Kline

NEW YORK — At a press event celebrating his return to Broadway, Kevin Kline wanted to be crystal clear on one topic: He’s not having a midlife crisis. He’s playing someone who’s having a midlife crisis.

“I’m way past my midlife crisis. I’m in my third,” the actor joked.

Kline is starring in “Present Laughter,” Noel Coward’s 1939 farce about an egomaniacal matinee idol in the midst of personal turmoil. It’s all about dressing gowns, love affairs and witty repartee, but Kline said it’s really hard work.

“One of my friends said, ‘Noel Coward? That’ll be a breeze for you.’ But I’ve never done it before. It’s not as easy as it looks,” he said. “It’s supposed to look easy but, in fact, it’s threading a needle.”

Kline, 69, plays Garry Essendine, an aging star who can’t answer the door without first checking his hair in a mirror. The character is planning a trip to Africa but is interrupted by a love-struck ingenue, a producer, his estranged wife and a crazed young playwright. The title comes from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” — “Present youth hath present laughter.”

Described by the playwright himself as “a series of semi-autobiographical pyrotechnics,” the play has been revived five times on Broadway and many times in London, starring Ian McKellen, Albert Finney, Frank Langella, Victor Garber and Coward himself.

“It had always been on my list of parts because I saw it once and thought, ‘What a funny play and what a great part,’” said Kline.

Kline has played an aging ham before — particularly in 1991’s “Soapdish” — but said he relishes the chance to parody his art in a high-energy show onstage. “It’s not falling off a log,” he said. “I hope it’ll look like it’ll be falling off a log.

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