Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Private Lives' Director Enjoys Play's Challenges

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Private Lives' Director Enjoys Play's Challenges

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Faulkner, Shorelines correspondent

Maury Covington's favorite quote about Noel Coward's play, Private Lives, comes from the playwright himself.

Covington remembers Coward saying, "Private Lives was described variously as tenuous, thin, brittle, gossamer, iridescent and delightfully daring. All of which connote to the public mind cocktails, evening dress, repartee and irreverent illusions to copulation, thereby causing a gratifying number of respectable people to queue up to the box office."

It's an odd way to describe what is considered one of the finest English language plays ever. But Covington hopes the playwright's words still hold true, particularly the box office part; he's directing Players-By-The-Sea's new production of the work, which opens Friday.

In summary, Private Lives sounds like your basic soon-to-star-Meg-Ryan romantic comedy. A well-to-do English couple, Elyot and Amanda, are madly in love but constantly mad at each other. They divorce, remarry and find themselves at a French seaside hotel with their new spouses. After some bitter fights among the newlyweds, Elyot and Amanda run off together, and the jilted spouses give chase.

Covington, though, believes simple explanations do not do justice to Coward's work.

"He's known for all these wonderful one-liners and this wonderful light touch with the language, but he ends up being an enormously profound writer," Covington said. "That makes the moment of the theater even more enjoyable. Not only do you get the cleverness and the wit of this wonderfully gifted man, but also he has something to say about how people exist in their lives and what they're looking for. Underneath it all, it's kind of a rare combination. It's a comedy, it's a farce, it's a romantic love story. The humor is light, but there's also a good bit of dark humor, and weaving together all of those elements is remarkable."

Mixing so many theatrical styles challenges actors. Covington said Coward was a dancer, actor, songwriter, singer and wit and wrote the roles for people at his skill level. …

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