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BWW Reviews: Shakespeare Theatre Company's PRIVATE LIVES Offers Delicious Wit and Whimsy


Picture your honeymoon. You're thrilled to be at your destination. You are ready for a new start. And undoubtedly, you cannot, in that moment, picture anything bad occurring during this blissful event. That is, until you suddenly see your ex.

This nightmare situation serves as the basic plot of Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES, currently playing at Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre.

Directed by Maria Aitken, the show hilariously delves into the question of what is proper, what is best left private, and what one should do in the face of the person you love, no matter how much you probably actually hate them.

Maria Aitken's direction is immaculate. She has crafted a production riddled with asides, physical comedy, and delightful interludes that make you want to jump on the stage and be apart of the merriment. Combined with Coward's witty script, Aitken's direction and her actors' timing gives it a new level that, while slightly dated, makes the show irresistibly fun.

Set designer Allen Moyer has crafted a set that accurately depicts both action and attitude. The large pieces, while slightly daunting as they move towards the edge of the stage at the beginning of each act, are beautiful, providing a handsomely neutral background to the colorful characters residing within them. During the two acts in Amanda's apartment, it becomes fun to notice all of the looming masks and home decorations, which have an appropriately foreboding quality. One may not consider how set pieces can fit the theme, but in this production, you are happily made aware of it.

Candice Donnelly's costumes are equally wonderful, and match the character's personalities. Amanda (Bianca Amato) dazzles in a gold evening gown, then later in a smart traveling ensemble with chunky bracelets. The men have an air of civilized glamour, and Sybil's (Autumn Hurlbert) light colors further her ingénue portrayal.

Bianca Amato and James Waterston are an unparalleled pair as Amanda and Elyot, the divorced couple who find themselves drawn back together. Amato is both grit and glamour, portraying a character that is brusque for her time, but immense fun to watch. Waterston begins his portrayal of Eliot as prim and reserved, but loses it completely as the show goes on, and Amanda's allure reveals his true, simplistic personality. In short, he is hilarious.

As Sybil, Autumn Hurlbert is a perfect brat, adamant to get her own way. While shrill, she is fun, and a stark contrast to Amato's Amanda. Jeremy Webb makes Victor appropriately droll, but his physical comedy in later scenes of the show demonstrates a new side.

If you are a fan of quick wit, smart humor, physical comedy and productions that make you want to remain in the seats for days, see PRIVATE LIVES. While the situation may be a nightmare for the four main characters, it is an absolute dream of a theatre experience for its audience.

PRIVATE LIVES runs in the Lansburgh Theatre through July 13th. The show is about 2 hours and 30 minutes long, with two intermissions. Visit Shakespeare Theatre Company's website to find out more information.

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