BWW Reviews: Lovely PRIVATE LIVES Graces GTC Stage in Burbank


Private Lives
by Noel Coward
directed by Jules Aaron                                 
Table For Two Productions
@ GTC Burbank
through March 25

Noel Coward's wit is timeless. Many do not realize the extent of his repertoire, which includes comedy, drama and musicals. His works are irresistible, especially his now classic Private Lives that works to perfection when properly cast. In the latest revival by Table For Two at GTC Burbank, Jules Aaron has assembled a superior ensemble that mesh together like clockwork.

In the 1930s Coward was quite courageous to put forth such wildly flambuoyant characters as Elyot (Lenny Von Dohlen) and Amanda (Stasha Surdyke). His frivolous attitude toward divorce and adultery as told through their eyes was hardly commonplace, a far cry from the loose morality of today. Cowardesque wit and flair helped audience digest character flaws and accept Elyot and Amanda more readily. In any case, Coward himself as a homosexual took a rather perverted view of the marriage game, exposing spousal abuse openly and frankly. Either accept the possible negative aspects of what you are getting yourself into, or stay clear of it altogether...and that, he did. On the other hand, it is wise to see that being together is not a consistent bed of roses, and many diehard happily marrieds applaud the naughty diversions as a natural part of the bargain. The fights certainly highten the sexual entanglements that follow.

Table For Two's ensemble is top of the heap, with Von Dohlen and Surdyke deliciously egomaniacal in every way. Elyot, simply put, is the flippant egocentric who must have things as he pleases or not at all. "Some women should be struck regularly like gongs" is one of my favorite lines. Surdyke is also devilishly wicked, completely gorgeous and unreliable as Amanda. Both actors play off each other delightfully with split second timing.  Jeff Witzke as Victor and Annie Abrams as Sybil play wondrously loyal - just the opposite of Elyot and Amanda - and fit the roles divinely. Angie Light is a bit too fast and over-the-top in Act III as Louise the maid. She needs to relish more naturally her short time onstage  Aaron's pacing is up, up, up and bright throughout. The Act II verbal sparring builds to a frenzy, and the ensuing physical fights are staged as deftly as possible in the tight space.
JC Gafford has designed an adequate set of the Riviera balconies that convert in Act II to Amanda's flat in Paris. The ugly brown billboards of the flat's walls should be replaced by elegant paintings, sculpture or mirrors. Shon LeBlanc's costumes are to die for. Amanda's blue pjs and Eyot's colorful robe of Act II are in nice contrast to the lovely black and white evening wear of Act I.

If you like your wit lyrical and lilting, look no further than to Noel Coward and to this well-conceived and executed production of Private Lives.

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