PRIVATE LIVES Sparkles at the Huntington
Written by Noel Coward; directed by Maria Aitken; scenic design, Allen Moyer; costume design, Candice Donnelly; lighting design, Philip S. Rosenberg; sound design, Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen; dialect coach, Stephen Gabis
There are only a few more chances left to see Private Lives at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston this weekend, so don’t delay if you enjoy crackling wit, sparkling performances, and brilliant direction. Director Maria Aitken has guided her pitch-perfect cast through Noel Coward’s bitingly funny 1930 escapade of the once-married, now-divorced Elyot (James Waterston) and Amanda (Bianca Amato) accidentally reuniting while honeymooning with their new spouses at a seaside hotel in Deauville, France.
Waterston captures Elyot’s boyish self-absorption and petulance perfectly even while threatening physical harm to his mousey new bride Sibyl (a delightfully prim and proper Autumn Hurlbert). Amato is a positively ravishing Amanda, a self-reliant woman of the world who could turn her new husband Victor (an endearing if sputtering and stiff upper lipped Jeremy Webb) into ash with one searing look. It’s not surprising, then, that Elyot and Amanda are drawn to each other once again. Their fiery personalities need stronger fuel to keep them burning than either of their decidedly conventional new mates can provide.
Allen Moyer’s sets are exquisite in detail, accented beautifully by Philip S. Rosenberg’s evocative lighting. When the couples gaze from their adjacent hotel balconies across the yacht-filled Deauville harbor, shimmers of light seem to reflect off the water and play romantically on the sheered curtains that waft gently in delicate ocean breezes. When the scene moves to Amanda’sParisflat, a Renaissance flair is evident in the brocade drapes, floor-to-ceiling French doors, patterned crown molding, and enormous gilt-edged mirror. Outside the densely packed tiled roofs and wrought iron railings of nearby buildings suggest that neighbors could easily eavesdrop on the calamitous goings-on inside simply by opening a window. Unexpected and breath-taking added touches are the Raoul Dufy-inspired show curtains that evoke a cross between impressionism and naïf painting. The effect is transporting.
Private Lives ends the Huntington’s 2011-2012 in grand style. It’s an effervescent champagne cocktail perfect for a warm summer weekend in the city.
Photos courtesy of Huntington Theatre Company: Bianca Amato as Amanda, James Waterston as Elyot; Amanda Hurlbert as Sibyl and James Waterston; Bianca Amato and Jeremy Webb as Victor; James Waterston, Jeremy Webb, Bianca Amato and Autumn Hurlbert