BWW Reviews: PRIVATE LIVES as Bubbly and Giddy a Delight as Fine Champagne
Noel Coward's plays are, for the most part, theatrical soufflés: the ingredients are very simple and, when handled correctly, are deliciously light and tasty; however, in the hands of the inexperienced, they can turn out to be a mess best thrown away. I am happy to report that in the case of PRIVATE LIVES, now being staged by Agape Actors Co-op, the chefs know exactly what they are doing... this production is Coward done right and is a tasty treat for lovers of light, frothy, witty entertainment.
It all starts with the director... Jeff Davis has done a wonderful job of staging this light and airy evening. He has wisely chosen to populate the piece with actors who are the age of the original production. When the characters are 20-30something jazz babies, their actions ring true. When it is cast with more mature performers, the characters look pompous and immature. He has also wrapped the production in the music of Mr. Coward himself which beautifully supports the script. In what can be a talky script, he has kept the actors and the pace spinning like a top and has kept the relationship of Amanda and Elyot front and center. There is a depth beyond their witty banter and we often see the truth between the lines.
The set, designed by Olin Meadows, is an art deco delight. I was especially impressed with how the garden set of Act One was transformed into the room where the rest of the play takes place. It is a tasteful and elegant setting for the characters.
The final ingredient, and where many productions go wrong, is the actors who play Amanda and Elyot. CiCi Moore, quite simply, was born to play Amanda. She inhabits the soul of the most vivacious character in the play... beautiful, spirited, independent, and unconventional. She has that skill with language plays where one thing may be said, but quite another is meant... and she conveys every single one of them with aplomb. Nicholas Mani, as Elyot, is every bit of Ms. Moore's equal and they have an obvious chemistry. Elyot, first performed by the playwright himself, represents the witty, irreverent, sophisticated Englishman that Coward admired and saw himself as exemplifying. Both Mani and Moore carry this production with style, charm and grace... and are a joy to watch.
As the antithesis to Amanda and Elyot, their new partners Sybil (Ciera Chancellor) and Victor (Travis Carrillo), really exist as plot devices in the script and to show how the characters have chosen someone they really aren't suited for. Except for Act Three, the roles are pretty paper thin. I applaud the actors for making them more than the mere plot devices they often become in productions of PRIVATE LIVES I have seen.
If you are a fan of great wit and style, then I can highly recommend PRIVATE LIVES.
PRIVATE LIVES by Noel Coward
Running time: Approximately Two Hours with two intermissions
PRIVATE LIVES, produced by Agape Actors Co-op, at East View High School Black Box Theatre (4490 East University Avenue, Georgetown, TX 78626) Feb. 26 - Mar. 8, 2015. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm. Tickets: www.agapeactors.com