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PRIVATE LIVES Andrews Theatre/Irish Classical Theatre Company
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Jun 10, 2024, 19:23
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Through June 30
PRIVATE LIVES Andrews Theater/Irish Classical Theatre Company

By Augustine Warner

Besides writing plays, books, memoirs and songs, Noel Coward was an actor, frequently leading the first production of his own scripts.
He knew what worked and what didn’t.
Shakespeare is said to have acted in his own plays, particularly the Ghost in “Hamlet.”
Coward’s “Private Lives” shows that value of the writer-actor.
This play is a classic, with the Irish Classical staging its third version of this often-comic script.
For this production, Vincent O’Neill was in the Opening Night crowd, instead of on stage as Elyot Chase.
This time, Ben Michael Moran is the rich, vapid and newly re-married Elyot.
This is where the theatrical suspension of disbelief comes in and the skill of a playwright appears.
The show opens in a coastal resort area of France.
Elyot is there with new wife Sibyl (Anna Fernandez).
He discovers his former wife Amanda (Jenn Stafford) is in the adjacent room with her new husband Victor Prynne (Darryl Semira).
Coincidence?
It may have been a tempestuous marriage and probably a hard divorce, but when Elyot and Amanda discover each other, the old hormones kick in and they wind up heading off to Amanda’s apartment in a plush neighborhood of Paris to get it on…and on…and on.
As the two parade around the apartment, with its endless brandy and array of colorful robes and pajamas from costume designer Vivian Del Bello, all the issues of the past in their marriage start re-surfacing, along with some domestic violence.
Meanwhile, the abandoned Sibyl and Victor have taken to each other, creating personal and legal messes for two couples whose marriage legal paperwork probably hasn’t been filed yet.
The behavior of the characters is very much out of Sixties California, rather than Depression Britain where divorce remained difficult and expensive, for other than the Upper Crust, like the Duke of Westminster nicknamed “Bendor,” for his wealth and women and a predecessor of the duke who was just married (for the first time).
The principal characters here are not pleasant human beings but their apparent wealth make them socially acceptable so that their behavior is excused.
Director Chris Kelly has a lot to work with in the play, with the ICTC’s square stage sometimes resembling a boxing ring for the verbal and physical scuffles of the production.
Unfortunately, Kelly has chosen a highly stylized physical movement scheme for the cast and it doesn’t always work.
It’s a strong cast, particularly Moran who has mastered the tricky art of speaking his lines with a period accent and being clearly audible.
Not everyone in the cast does.
Set designer David Dwyer contributes another fine set for the challenging confines of the ICTC.
Without setting aside the touchy social values of the play and its occasionally casual violence, Private Lives is a strong production of a classic play, reflecting some of the attitudes of Coward’s time.

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