"amusingly acidic production...The audience hung on every insult...a template for future rom-coms with spiky scripts." Read entire review here at the
Alaska Dispatch News
"...densely layered with comedy, tragedy, lust, and confusion..whether love ends, how new love forms, and where lust plays into all of it are important questions today" -- See Review at Anchorage Press
"Cyrano’s has enlivened what might have been just talky piece of theatre into a lively and passionate romp...certainly a hit." -- Scroll down for a review by Robert Pond
Cyrano’s Theatre Company has returned, for a time, to some grand old theatre with its current presentation of British theatre legend Noel Coward's Private Lives. Coward’s theatre was theatre that entertained at a level we longingly call sophisticated comedy, or the comedy of class. The play is in constant revival among the regional and community theatres and, frequently, among the professionals on screen, TV, and stage-as it should be. Private Lives, is a restoration of the comedy of manners that seems to be drifting away from us amid the rise of a classless populous leaning more towards low comedy.
While recovering from influenza in China, actor, director, and pre-eminent playwright, Noel Coward (Blithe Spirit, Present Laughter, Hay Fever, and Peace in Our Time) sketched out a play for actress Gertrude Lawrence and himself for a 1930 production of Private Lives. The play had mixed initial reception in England but nonetheless drew an enthusiastic following by its American production. Coward wrote and directed the piece and, indeed, acted the role of Elyot. Besides Gertrude Lawrence as Amanda, Lawrence Olivier played Victor. Even Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton challenged their real life similarities to the play in appearing in a 1983 Broadway effort.
Noel Coward’s somewhat infamous wit abounds in Private Lives where we find a quadrille of lovers in play. After an all too brief courtship Elyot (Frank Delaney) and Sybil (Stefanie Suydam) are honeymooning at a hotel that –wouldn’t you know it- also is hosting their respective ex-significant. Of course, it’s contrived, but nonetheless Private Lives is a clever piece. There is the permutated coupling amid the expected passion, violence, and the inescapable urge to outwit each other, as clever people are prone to. Resulting from divorce remorse and reaching a stall, the entangled domestic warriors eventually leave the exhaustive battle. The fight scene alone is worth the evening.
Rather than replicating the sometimes-dull drawing room effort, Cyrano’s has enliven what might have been just talky piece of theatre into a lively and passionate romp. Part of the directorial design was to Americanize it and this was accomplished without compromising that unique British attitude and manner and without any local brutalizing of British accents. Relationship aside, it’s one thing to see your charge drop the training wheels and quite another to witness the work of a mature directing talent with an abundance of confidence.
Successful productions often reveal the contributions of the parts that make the whole. The combination of scenic designer Marcia Varady and ‘scenic build’ Brian Saylor demonstrates an artistic marriage of impressive talents. In a theatre space that perpetuates right angles, the designers mad setting look very good and the set was a complimentary outerwear to the play, which was protected by the accommodating lighting design by Frank Hardy. The costumes by Gigi Lynch and assisted by Jerssica Swan gave the show its look and Tyler Carlson granted us the clean sound design. With respect to the fight choreography, it is worth mentioning that both actors Frank Delaney and Becca Mahar are fight directors and, by definition, they knew what thy were doing during that very exciting scene.
Actor Stefanie Suydam has been away from acting for too long. Her work as Sibyl was so well done, largely because she was so successful in trekking through the pitfalls of the contrived aspects of her character; thereby, her performance was genuine. Jay Burns’ performance as Victor is significant in that we see his work as complete as it was consistent. It’s like we are now witnessing so much more of his acting potential. Danielle Best as Louise, the servant-staffer, provides the comical punctuations - in French. Frank Delaney gives us a different Elyot than one might have expected. So much of Delanley’s past work has been in character roles and here, as Elyot, Frank is every inch a leading man. His work as the sophisticated Elyot is his own at all levels, though; one can sense the hint of a roughness that lies there simmering. We have viewed Rebecca Mahar’s work many times and have been constantly impressed at her growth with her diverse roles. As Amanda, Becca has made a giant leap in her work. Her rhythm and her energies and her now apparent range delivered a performance that might be viewed, as they say, as awesome.
There are hits in the theatre and there are hits. Private Lives as presented by Cyrano’s Theatre Company is a certainly a hit. Not much to criticize here except the practice of adding a front row of seats at Cyrano’s, because of full houses, obscures some of the view and the normal design of the audience area.