Private Lives by Noel Coward, The Lantern Theater Company, St. Stephen’s Alley, 10th & Ludlow, Dec. 8 – 31, 2011, Ben Dibble, Genevieve Perrier, Leonard C. Haas, K.O. DelMarcelle, Jessica Bedford. Directed by Kathyrn MacMillan. Review of opening Dec. 14 for WRTI, 90.1 fm.
Comedies date – even with celebrity drawing power. Noel Coward’s Private Lives is closing early on Broadway even with Kim Cattrall’s good reviews. We’re pretty far removed from 1930s society…maybe that’s not the wit and glitter we crave now. In Philadelphia, at the Lantern Theater, a seriously debonaire Ben Dibble, with pencil moustache makes a flippant Elyot in the Coward play, and Genieve Perrier, black hair clipped with rhinestones, flaunts her way through the role of the equally narcissistic Amanda whom Elyot still loves and love to hate. The hell with love, says Elyot, to his new wife, Sybil (K.O. DelMarcelle), hoping for a tidy, cosy love.
Passion is the ruination of love. It brings jealousy, bickering, pettyiness both Elyot and Amanda believe. The former spouses meet up on their dual honeymoons and chaos ensues. Leonard Haas plays the tweedy, stuffed shirt Victor Prynne, Amanda’s new groom. Like the wronged Sybil, he’s utterly earnest, unlike Sybil, he always thinks he’s right.
The farcical situation leads where it might be expected and then detours. Private Lives addresses the nature of intimacy, desire and expectations about boundaries, which have definitely changed for partners in the last eight decades!
The Lantern production substitutes some humor for slapstick but delivery of all this English inflected wit is a lovely change of pace from the serious drama it usually offers. There is so much fun and glamor. The fisticuffs – choreographed by Alex Cordero – are terrific. Meghan Jones’s stylish modular set swings from a hotel balcony in Deauville to the interior of Amanda’s Parisian flat.
Amanda and Elyot take little seriously except their desire which ignites. Amanda admits she’s irresponsible to the core. The couple’s wit provides an evening’s laughter at The Lantern. Private Lives has lines to brood on too.