Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Noël Coward's "Private Lives" at Main Street Theater

Left to right: Skyler Sinclair as Sibyl, Alan Brincks as Elyot, Elizabeth Marshall Black as Amanda, and Joel Grothe as Victor. Photo credit: Main Street Theater.

Last Saturday I saw "Private Lives" at Main Street Theater in Rice Village. By necessity, this will be a short review that doesn't do the play justice, but I have to post it now because there are only four more performances left: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (August 8, 9, 10) at 7:30 pm, and a matinee on Sunday August 11 at 3 pm. I highly recommend it!

As far as I know, I'd never seen a Noël Coward play before this, but I had a vague idea that "Private Lives" would be something akin to a Neil Simon/Tom Stoppard-esque romantic comedy set in the 1930s. And that did turn out to be pretty close, which means it was right up my alley. The premise, as described by the MST website, is that "Elyot and Amanda, once married and now divorced, meet again while honeymooning with new spouses at the same hotel and discover the old flame still burns hotly." You can probably imagine what might ensue from that.

This is such a fun play! Elyot and Amanda, played beautifully by Alan Brincks and Elizabeth Marshall Black, are a ridiculous, overly dramatic pair, given to trading flowery declarations and hot-headed insults almost in the same breath. They share some terrific comedic moments that are enhanced by Main Street Theater's creative staging-in-the-round. And how challenging that must have been! When you have characters wrestling, tango-dancing, and throwing vases of water at each other only a few feet from the audience on all sides, well, you have to be pretty darn precise in your blocking. Kudos to director Claire Hart-Palumbo and the rest of the stage crew for that.

But back to the acting, I was seriously impressed by Alan Brincks as Elyot. His facial expressions were quick to change and spot-on, right down to popping veins in his forehead and neck when Elyot's temper gets the best of him. Skyler Sinclair and Joel Grothe, who portray the jilted newlyweds, have to play it fairly straight in Act 1 and appear only at the end of Act II, but it's worth the wait, because they really get to let loose in Act III with Sibyl's little-girl hysterics and Victor's pompous (and failing) determination to remain calm. And last but not least, Rebecca Greene Udden has a small part as a French housekeeper that may have elicited the loudest laughs of the evening.

I've said it before but it's worth repeating: Main Street Theater is a charming playhouse that puts on terrific productions. Go!

Elyot (Alan Brincks) and Amanda (Elizabeth Marshall Black).
Photo credit: Main Street Theater.

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