BWW Review: PRIVATE LIVES Offers a Taste of Throwback Theatre at Dorset Theatre Festival
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise". The beloved 1930 comedy of manners, Private Lives, was one of the best known of his over 30 works.
Elyot and Amanda, once married and now honeymooning with new spouses at the same hotel, meet by chance, reignite the old spark and impulsively elope.
After days of being reunited, they again find their fiery romance alternating between passions of love and anger. Their aggrieved spouses appear, and a roundelay of affiliations ensues as the women first stick together, then apart, and new partnerships are formed.
The cast of PRIVATE LIVES includes Rachel Pickup as Amanda Prynne, Shawn Fagan as Elyot Chase, Anna Crivelli as Elyot's new wife, Sybil Chase, Hudson Oz as Amanda's new husband, Victor, and Dee Pelletier as the French-speaking maid, Louise. Director Evan Yionoulis is joined by Scenic Designer Lee Savage, Costume Designer Katherine B. Roth, Lighting Designer Donald Holder, Sound Designer Jane Shaw, and Fight Choreographer BH Barry.
It would be appropriate to place PRIVATE LIVES in the category of whimsical farce.
That said, it is important to note that we are very much dealing with British humour, which is shaped by the relative stability of British society and carries a strong element of satire aimed at "the absurdity of everyday life".
Reviews of PRIVATE LIVES have been mixed all the way back to its opening in 1931. In 1983 a revival of the classic was mounted on Broadway featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, it ran for 63 performances. A 2002 revival on Broadway received three Tony awards including Best Revival. In 2011 a production opened at New York's Music Box theatre on November 11 closed early on December 31.
Despite the efforts of the cast, a strikingly handsome set, and beautiful costumes, PRIVATE LIVES will not be (pardon the pun) everyone's cup of tea. The material is dated and generally appeals most to an older audience segment and those who long for the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (not that there is anything wrong with that). To be clear and fair, many audience members at the charming Dorset Playhouse where this production of PRIVATE LIVES continues through July 6th enjoyed the presentation thoroughly.