Cattrall reaffirms her considerable talent. Her Amanda has emotional nuance, vulnerability and odd, unexpectedly humanizing glimmers of a common touch beneath the cultivated veneer of exquisite boredom and petulance...Canadian actor Gross is every bit Cattrall's equal.
PRIVATE LIVES Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Private Lives on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Private Lives including the New York Times and More...
[Cattrall has] been paired off here with Paul Gross, who matches her in both light-comedy physicality and major sexual chemistry...after decades of revivals that exploited Coward's most popular comedy as a sideshow for aging actresses with something to prove, this one keeps the stakes up at what Coward calls the "big tables."
Gross is the evening's highlight, with his flawless lacquer of disdain broken only by eruptions of mania. (His third-act face-off with Day's fusty, fuming Victor is particularly zippy and unpredictable.) He's in close touch with the anarchist, the sociopath and the romantic struggling to burst from Elyot's crisp English outer-chrysalid. Cattrall is all poise and perfect timing as Amanda, Elyot's double and opposite-number.
The show mostly steers clear of sourness because of our awareness of a redeeming self-consciousness in Amanda and Elyot. Even when these two are going at it hammer and tongs, you have the sense of their watching themselves, on some level, and being elegantly amused by their inelegant behavior. In this version of Coward's soignée world, pratfalls are at least as important as poses.
It helps that esteemed director Richard Eyre applies a light, sure hand, and the actors show a similar ease and dexterity. Cattrall's Amanda is adorably feminine, with a breezy, un-self-conscious energy that mitigates the character's narcissism. As the equally narcissistic Elyot, Canadian actor Paul Gross is less endearing but just as entertaining.
Director Richard Eyre and the cast succeed in a tricky balancing act for a play written in 1930: Keep the humor, but lose much of the affected, mannered performances - all those "darlings" and "splendids" and Coward bon mots - that often make his plays seem frothy and insubstantial. The result, which opened Thursday at the Music Box Theatre, is funny and insightful in its attempt to reconcile the notion of marriage and sexual attraction, and yet also doesn't shy away from exploring the link between lust and violence.
Cattrall, an experienced stage actress, is easier to admire than adore as Amanda...until, that is, she starts to bellow like a shrew, which is all too often, given the explosive nature of Amanda and Elyot's love. The sophistication yields to coarseness. Quite the same is true of Gross, who never manages the suavity Elyot must wear like a dinner jacket if his easy brutishness is to be at all tolerable.
Trivial and superficial' is an entirely appropriate description of both Noël Coward's now octogenarian Private Lives and director Richard Eyre's new Broadway production. And while it isn't the kind of quote theater producers like to slap on advertising posters, it is meant as a compliment.
Ms. Cattrall, to be sure, looks gorgeous, but she doesn't look 30, and the fact that the play has been recast to accommodate her age—Mr. Gross is 52—distorts it still further...Between Mr. Day's stiff-upper-lip Victor and Mr. Gross's urbanely exasperated Elyot, this "Private Lives" is quite good enough to be worth seeing. But Ms. Cattrall's earthbound performance keeps it from taking wing, and a production of "Private Lives" that fails to soar can't help but disappoint.
Gross seems to lose his footing, and his Elyot fails to convey any passion for Amanda. This is a big problem since, plot-wise, there's only a series of quicksilver switches from desire to annoyance and back again. Cattrall shoulders her share of the heavy lifting with grace and sexiness, but you wish she had a better sparring partner.
The reason for this revival is Kim Cattrall, a fine stage actor whose "Sex and the City" TV and film gigs have made her bankable. Cattrall, in her mid-50s, looks great and handles an English accent effortlessly, but she has trouble locating Amanda's dryness and mercurial whimsy. Gross, also 50ish, a top Canadian star known here for his wonderful work on the TV series "Slings and Arrows," looks just as great and brings a commanding presence to the stage.
Eyre's production-handsomely designed by Rob Howell (set and costumes) and dreamily lit by David Howe-exudes intelligence and style, but misses the necessary balance of musicality and silliness, of brittleness and bluff-without which Coward comes across as arch, empty fluff. Exquisitely contrived and capriciously sustained, Private Lives is one of his vintage almost-farces, a comedy of marital manners in which the divorced Amanda and Elyot find themselves in adjoining honeymoon suites in the South of France on second marriages. In short order they reunite in shock, feign apathy, fall in love again and adulterously elope, leaving their killjoy spouses (Simon Paisley Day, Anna Madeley) to track them down in Paris.
Richard Eyre's production largely fails to land even the easy laughs. While the first act - in which Amanda and Elyot rekindle their attraction - is still cute, the remainder of the play comes off as stale...Gross makes for a handsome and genuinely suave Elyot, and he has some great moments with Simon Paisley Day and Anna Madeley, who give fully dimensioned performances as Amanda and Elyot's nice but boring new spouses.
It's too matter-of-fact and not nearly frothy enough to make this wickedly romantic comedy sparkle. There are bubbles, mind you, but they're from a goofy-looking aquarium that's in Amanda's Paris apartment. And even that springs a leak during the show.