Review by Danny Gaisin
From a set that looks like the entry to a fancy restaurant’s Ladies Room, to faulty blocking, to poor vocal projection, to some hammy acting, Noel Coward’s Private Lives deserves better. The plot deals with two newly-wed couples at the start of their respective honeymoons. Couple ‘A’s groom and couple ‘B’s bride were once couple ‘C’ but have been divorced for five years. They all reunite at the same Cote D’azure resort and the old sparks fly. Being a Coward play the dialogue is clever and memorable and especially re-quotable. I still include ‘don’t quibble, Sybil’ in conversations. Photo courtesy of David Hou
With theatre, ‘the Buck stops here’ position is that of the director and Carey Perloff must take the blame for some glaring thespian no-no’s. “A” Team stalwart Geraint Wyn Davies mumbles and under projects his bon mots ofttimes towards stage left and even telegraphs a seemingly discomfort in the role of ‘Elyot Chase’. Perhaps because of the surprisingly hamminess by Sophia Walker as the aforementioned ‘Sibyl. Davies is somewhat more relaxed when interacting with Lucy Peacock as his ‘ex’ –Amanda who is now paired with a somewhat compulsive and anal Mike Shara whose Victor Prynne is the most credible portrayal.
The less-than-loving new couples seem more amalgamating than uniting with one another. Coward wrote the play ninety years ago and while relationships still have their hills and valleys, stigmas and mores have changed. I first observed two couples matrimonially switching when I was twenty, but recall all four seeming to progress with their new spouses amicably and without stress…even within a small Kibbutz environment of 150 people!
Pace is one of the cornerstones of theatre, For every director, working within the confines of a playwright’s parameters and paradigm, is an enormous hurdle. Thus, there may be uneven progress or plot definition. A number of our seatmates confessed to moments of drowsiness or even some brief shuteye periods. I can’t recall the last time this happened at a Stratford stage effort. Being repertory, we’ll be seeing the same quartet tomorrow in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives . . .stay tuned!