Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Private Lives' Alive, Well; Staging Does Coward Justice

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Private Lives' Alive, Well; Staging Does Coward Justice

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Faulkner, Shorelines correspondent

From the first few moments into Players By-the-Sea's production of Private Lives, it's easy to understand why it has been called one of the most challenging plays of the community theater's new season.

It's not exaggerating to say Noel Coward's work taxes every aspect of its cast's acting abilities. There's an enormous amount of dialogue, with virtually every English-accented line getting a razor-sharp rejoinder. Timing is key, too, for none of the quips and comebacks would carry any impact if not delivered at the exact right moments. And there's plenty of physical comedy thrown in, everything from full-on fisticuffs to revealing changes of expression and subtle, knowing smirks.

The play also demands a lot of its audience; keeping up with all the activity requires constant attention. Fortunately, Coward builds on a familiar tale of lust conquering rational thinking, so he can move quickly into the comedy.

Private Lives tells the story of Elyot and Amanda, two narcissistic hotheads whose tumultuous marriage lasted two years. Chances are you know a couple like this -- they always end up fighting, yet some primal attraction keeps them together.

We meet them on the terrace at a French hotel at the beginning of their honeymoons with their new spouses. Just after Elyot and his young bride, Sibyl, arrive, they start arguing about Amanda. That way we learn about the fighting, the bickering, the gossip-mongering and all the other mishaps that destroyed Elyot and Amanda's marriage.

Amanda and her new husband, Victor, arrive in the room next door. There we get Amanda's side of her relationship with Elyot -- the drinking, the philandering and the fighting. She claims she wants a safe and ordinary life, which Victor personifies from head to toe.

Of course, Elyot and Amanda run into each other on the connecting terraces. …

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