“The Vortex” at The Matrix Theatre Review – Deliciously Delightful Decadence


Noel Coward’s 1924 scandalous dramedy, The Vortex, produced by Amanda Eliasch, was once considered shocking, and too avant-garde for its time, but it was nevertheless a hit in London and New York. Director Gene Franklin Smith reset it to depict the swinging 60s—the start of the Hippie era, the Beatles, and the Rolling stones, with music and dancing from that era. The play is certainly not as frothy as Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” or “Private Lives.”



Florence Lancaster (Shannon Holt), a promiscuous, nymphomaniac socialite, deludes herself that she is still the raving beauty of two decades before. Despite her husband David’s (John Mawson), presence, she openly dotes on her current young boy-toy lover, Tom Veryan (Daniel Jimenez). 

The opening scene has Florence’s close circle of friends—Tom, her lover du jour, her clear-headed best friend Helen Saville (Victoria Hoffman), and PounceforthPawnie” Quentin (Cameron Mitchell Jr.), an unacknowledged gay—all doing “The Twist,” the dance craze of the day. All are fashionably attired, in a beautifully appointed, colorful stage setting.

The dysfunctional Lancaster family’s home is resplendant—a place where gin martinis flow freely on a silver tray, and, “It’s never too early for a cocktail!” The privileged group of friends is affected, pompous, and wealthy, with too much time on their hands. Witty, barbed conversation and sharp retort is exchanged, with well-heeled guests jockeying for top position.



Florence’s son, Nicky (Craig Robert Young), a promising pianist, has returned after a jaded year in Paris. He is cocaine dependent, attempting to deal with his self-hatred and latent sexuality. He surprises his mother with the introduction of his beautiful new fiancée, elegant Bunty Mainwaring (Skye LaFonteine), whom he does not love. Sparks fly between the three—and tensions reach a crescendo after Tom enters the scene. It appears he and Bunty have been attached in the past. It doesn’t take much guesswork to know what happens next!



In act three, Craig Robert Young, as Nicky, impressively spirals downwards to the desperate, oedipally charged, and confrontational climax. The famous, final riveting scene of The Vortex teeters on the brink of madness—Nicky tears his mother apart with accusations and revelations—reminiscent of "Hamlet’s" closet scene.



Noel Coward’s own pain is palpably felt in Nicky’s dialogue. He originally played the role himself, and it’s no secret these problems cut close to home in his own life. Today the themes and issues in The Vortex are relevant, and more broadly prevalent in our culture than ever before—coming out, drug addiction, and more... 

Apart from the genuine British actors, Young and Mawson, the entire cast pulls off believable English accents and inflections, impressively doing justice to Coward’s biting satire and stinging dialogue. The play is witty, smart, cynical, and exceptionally well acted by the entire cast. Both Shannon Holt and Craig Robert Young reach sheer heights of excellence. Victoria Hoffman excels as sober family friend, Helen, whose attempt to steer Florence and Nicky away from the rocks fails. 

Congratulations to brilliant director Gene Franklin Smith and the entire designing team for achieving excellence in The Vortex. Scene changes in all three acts were effected seamlessly. Set Designer Erin Walley recreated the 60’s feel with his gorgeous color palette, music selections, and Andy Warhol-style pop-art portrait. Highly recommended.


The Vortex - Nicky Lancaster brings his elegant fiancée, Bunty, home to introduce her to his famous mother, stage actress Florence Lancaster. Nicky is shocked to discover that Florence has taken a much-younger lover, and when Bunty ditches Nicky to run off with Florence’s boy-toy, both are forced to confront the raw truth about themselves. 

Starring StageScene LA Scenie 2014 Award winner for Best Actor Craig Robert Young and multi-award (Scenie, Ovation, Garland, LA Weekly) nominated and winner Shannon Holt. 

Photographs Credit: McCarthy Photo Studio

Written by Noel Coward
Directed by Gene Franklin Smith

Produced by: Amanda Eliasch  and Vespa Collaborative

Starring Shannon HoltCraig Robert YoungVictoria HoffmanDaniel JimenezSkye LaFontaineJohn Mawson and Cameron Mitchell Jr.

Runs: November 13th – December 14th
Thurs, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm

There is no performance on Thanksgiving Day

The Matrix Theatre
7657 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90046

Book at The Matrix Theatre

323-960 7735

General Admission: $34







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