Play: Private Lives
Group: Black Cat Theatre
Venue: Black Cat Theatre, 2810 Sutton
Dates: February 19,20,21,22
Tickets: $15-$20; contact 314-781-8300 or www.blackcattheatre.org
Story: Elyot Chase and his bride, Sybil, are honeymooning on the French Riviera to celebrate their wedded bliss. While delighted with her situation, Sybil nonetheless is intrigued by Elyot’s first marriage to a woman named Amanda, which ended in a bitter divorce. Simultaneously, newlyweds Victor and Amanda Prynne arrive at the same French Riviera hotel, coincidentally occupying a suite adjoining the one for Elyot and Sybil.
Of course, Amanda is one and the same Amanda who was Elyot’s first wife. When the two of them meet by chance on their shared terrace, their romance blossoms anew and they decide to run off to Paris, leaving their short-term second spouses in the breach. So, will they live happily ever after, or revert to their feuding, jealous ways?
Highlights: Noel Coward’s witty, sophisticated romp is as humorous and delightful now as when he penned it in 1930. A master of dry, elegant comedy as well as a dash of slapstick here and there, Coward strung together words that are more a series of bon mots for any talented performer who embraces them.
That is precisely the case with the current Black Cat Theatre production directed with flair and finesse by Edie Avioli. She keeps the pace brisk throughout the work’s three acts in just under two hours. That spirited presentation style blends well with the expert delivery of James Anthony and Aarya Sara Locker in the pivotal roles of Elyot and Amanda. Their timing is masterful and their chemistry is delicious, making for a winning combination of comedy and romance.
Importantly, they play off each other in expertly measured fashion, not missing a beat or a comic opportunity, matching wits in the characters’ debonair, rakish fashion while also able to take the occasional pratfall. Anthony’s polished accomplishments are familiar to local audiences, who will be delighted with newcomer Locker’s charm and magnetism as well as her Cate Blanchett looks.
Other Info: Larissa Forsythe is enjoyable as the naïve and perplexed Sybil, who just can’t seem to figure out how to get in on the action. Justin Ivan Brown, another newcomer to the local theater scene, is fine in the supporting role of Victor, showing us how the stuffy aristocrat is no match for the easy elegance and appeal of the roustabout Elyot. And Sarajane Alverson is amusing in the small role of a beleaguered maid in the Parisian hotel.
Dunsi Dai provides two splendid sets for the show, the first a balcony on the Riviera with an atmospheric, painted backdrop, the second a sumptuous suite in a Parisian hotel that includes a piano, a phonograph, sofa and assorted chairs for Elyot and Amanda to fight amongst, all lit satisfactorily by Maureen Hanratty. Bonnie Kruger’s costumes are vintage Coward apparel, highlighted by the elegant gowns adorning Locker, and Scott Sears provides the classy background music, which could be turned down a notch or two in the opening scene.
All in all, it’s a most pleasant romp with a most decadent couple and their unfortunate accomplices.
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.