Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Private Lives

                                                                                      (photo by Andrew Alexander)
Cowardy Custard
by Valerie Cardinal

Written in 1930, Noel Coward’s Private Lives is considered to be among the great drawing room plays along with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. Despite being set between two world wars, its themes and text still resonate with a modern audience.

Divorced couple Elyot and Amanda find their respective honeymoons with new spouses ruined when they happen to be staying in neighbouring hotel rooms. This allows the pair to revisit the reasons they love each other – and the reasons they hate each other, of course.

Private Lives’ strength is in its cast, with everyone bringing their A-game. However, David Whiteley and Alix Sideris as divorced couple Elyot and Amanda really shine in their scenes together thanks to their obvious chemistry. Steve Martin wins the award for best facial expressions as Amanda’s bumbling and well-meaning new husband Victor. Martin has the ability to crack up an audience with only a single bewildered glance. Bronwyn Steinberg is a delight as Elyot’s new wife Sybil, who is the human incarnation of naïve femininity.

Although the first act starts off slow, Craig Walker’s direction keeps the whole affair moving along at a quick pace. I barely noticed that the intermission came after 90 minutes had already passed. Private Lives also features some fantastic bursts of well-choreographed physical comedy. Noel Coward’s script is full of witticisms and moments that will make you wish you were passionately in love with someone.

Andrea Robertson Walker’s sets are beautifully designed and really transport viewers to the 1930s. For a moment, you really do think that you’re standing on the balcony of a fancy hotel room or peering into the living room of Amanda and Elyot’s Parisian hideout. This production approaches a long and potentially awkward set change in a novel way; the whole thing has been adorably choreographed for our enjoyment.

All in all, Plosive Productions’ Private Lives makes for a very enjoyable night at the theatre, with some very fun characters. Even though Elyot can come off as a pompous ass and Amanda as unreliable and flighty, it’s easy to understand why they keep falling back in love with each other when the pieces are all in place – great script, great acting and great direction.

Private Lives runs to October 12

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