Private Lives

Private Lives

Private Lives
By Noel Coward
Directed by Timothy Williams
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

Most married couples take 20 or 30 year to reach this level of dysfunction, but Sibyl (Sara Jane Fridlich) and Elyot Chase (Philip Nolen) can’t get through a honeymoon without splitting up. The proximate cause is their next door neighbors at the Hotel Notel: Victor (Kevin Zepf) and his new bride Amanda (Jennifer Christa Palmer) inconveniently move into the suite next door and Amanda is Elyot’s ex. While they split unamicably five years ago, some of that old flame remains and no pair of fighter have been so evenly matched since the Lewis – Holyfield match. They jab, they duck, they spit, they kiss and make up and run off together, tradition and paper work be damned. But you know it will be rough and their Parisian love nest is soon littered with broken furniture and smashed plastic glassware, and the reality becomes obvious – they both need a proper sparring partner and those other two are simply lightweights. Maybe Victor and Sibyl can work something out; everyone is very “progressive” in this nifty little farce.

There are a LOT of words here and almost all of them can bring laughter. Nolan is a nice guy with an edge; Zepf is pompous and overbearing and really should be hunting grouse in the Transvaal. This play hinges on chemistry, and the Nolan / Palmer mix worked wonderfully and once Palmer was in her very modest PJ’s the two really let fly. You’ll feel sorry for flighty Sibyl – she kept asking about Amanda not knowing its best to let sleeping romances lie. Everything was very elegant on stage from the hula hoop festooned hotel balcony to the grand piano the stage crew wrestles in for the last half of the show. I recommend sitting in for the first intermission, the set change was like watching a circus set up. You can grab a refreshment in the second intermission; you’ll need it to feel as “progressive” as the action on stage. “Progressive” is upper class talk for having sex without the proper paper work and while you’re unlikely to find Private Lives that all that shocking today, it made quite an impression on the Lord Chamberlain in 1930. There’s plenty to like here – you’ve got sex, champagne, wealthy people acting like idiots, sparkly dresses and some of the best bitchy stage fighting in town. This is an occasion worth dressing up for.

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