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DESIGN FOR LIVING Irish Classical Theatre Company/Andrews Theatre
Sep 21, 2017, 17:46
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DESIGN FOR LIVING Irish Classical Theatre Company/Andrews Theatre

By Augustine Warner

Love among the arts glitterati, something for everybody.
In "Design for Living," we have Gilda (Kate LoConti), Otto (Adriano Gattto) and Leo (Ben Michael Moran) and we have Ernest Friedman (Eric Michael Rawski).
Ernest is an art dealer.
Otto is an artist.
Leo is a writer.
It all swirls around the hangouts of the best and the brightest and the richest, Otto’s place in Paris, Leo’s place in London and Ernest’s high-rise place in New York.
Gilda is a hanger-on, sleeping with the main chance but with no seeming loyalty to any of them, only to herself.
This a bitter and informed look by Noel Coward at the world around him, when he was at his creative peak.
The story was risqué enough that the show opened on Broadway in 1933 and didn’t hit the West End until 1939.
It was blocked by England’s official censor.
The original production starred Coward, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, apparently with some participation in the writing process because their private lives were somewhat flexible.
It’s hard to like any of these “bright young things,” successful at what they do but somewhat deficient as human beings.
Their romantic histories are confused and tangled and Gilda seems unable to attach herself deeply to anyone except herself.
In the end, she pushes Ernest out the door and sticks with Otto and Leo.
Coward worked with words, as most playwrights do.
But, he painted pictures with words as well as creating a plot and story.
Working with David Dwyer’s set and Ann Emo’s costumes, the production tells a story of a world available only to a few, with one angle for the audience and the other to the theater world.
Coward created a world of surface, the successful art dealer, the increasingly successful artist, the top of the West End playwright and the woman successful at the surface of interior design, for her male friends and in New York City for an upper crust wealthy clientele.
She also uses paintings sold by husband Ernest for that interior design work.
That’s attacked by Grace Torrence (Lisa Vitrano), when Gilda does the apartment of her daughter Helen Carver (Anna Krempholtz) and husband Henry Carver (Connor Graham), still wealthy when few were and most were below poverty.
They are empty and unaware of their luck when most weren’t.
More surface.
It’s a fascinating script and a fascinating production, benefitting from a series of strong performances and strong direction from Katie Mallinson.
What’s also key is that Gatto and Moran have mastered the difficult art of acting very well and speaking in an understandable accent.
Rawski continues his recent series of wonderful performances as Ernest.
“Design for Living” is a very long show, but worth the time.
It’s a story of life on the surface, comfortable, well-fed and intellectual but shallow.
It’s fascinating.

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