“No matter where you look, something is always changing and people don’t want it to change.” That’s how Skip Ploss summed up Noel Coward’s play Relative Values, which he is directing at the Wilton Playshop. The show opens Friday, May 1, and continues May 2-3 and May 7-9. For tickets, visit wiltonplayshop.org.
Coward, the icon of all things British, drew on the English aristocracy for this play, which made its debut in 1951. Despite the number of years that have gone by, its central theme is timeless.
Ploss spoke to The Bulletin last week about the play and his return to the Playshop after an absence of about eight years.
“We haven’t cut anything,” he said of Coward’s script. “It is exactly as written.”
The play is often viewed as an exploration of snobbery — English aristocracy versus the nouveau riche of Hollywood — but Ploss said it goes deeper than that.
“It is more about the aristocracy in England, or anywhere else, fighting to stay the way they are, with things changing faster than they can keep up,” he said. Fans of the public TV series Downton Abbey will find that a familiar theme.
Relative Values is set in the English country manor Marshwood House, home to Lady Felicity, the maids Alice and Moxie, her butler, Crestwell, and her nephew. Friends are frequent visitors. Lady Felicity’s son has been away for months, but now he is coming home with his fiancée, a Hollywood actress.
The story revolves around the young woman as she tries to gain access to the family but they are not willing to grant it. The comedy that ensues moves the story forward, Ploss said.
There are other characters and complications to fill out the three-act play, but Ploss would not give any more away except to say there is a happy ending.
The cast, he added, “is phenomenal.”
Ploss has a long history of association with the Playshop. He is a past president and has written a “brief” history of the Playshop on its website, wiltonplayshop.org. He also met his wife, Laura, onstage when they both acted in Witness for the Prosecution.