Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Palm Beach DramaWorks: Private Lives (4 reviews)

Palm Beach DramaWorks opened Noel Coward's class comedy, Private Lives, on July 17, 2009.
An intimate comedy of bad manners, centering on a divorced couple both recently remarried, who accidentally book adjoining suites at a hotel for their honeymoons, revealing with razor-sharp wit the pitfalls of love and marriage.
J. Barry Lewis directs a cast that includes Wyn Harmon, Caroline Strong, Cliff Burgess, Margarita Bernal de Santana, and Katherine M. Tanner.

The Sun-Sentinel has declined to review this production.*

Kevin D. Thompson reviewed for the Palm Beach Post:
The humor is biting and sharper than a Ginsu knife. But what’s even more impressive is that the show has stood the test of time and doesn’t feel dated even though it was written nearly 80 years ago. Relationship drama, after all, never really goes out of style.
The eye-catching sets by Michael Amico will almost have you feeling like you’re lounging on a luxurious terrace in The City of Love.
For a play like Lives, a combustible chemistry between the lead actors is imperative. Fortunately Harmon and Strong have it under J. Barry Lewis’ careful direction.
Harmon... is rakishly handsome and charming as Elyot. Strong (talk about an appropriate surname), is every bit his equal and is hardly anyone’s shrinking violet.

Jan Sjostrom reviewed for the Palm Beach Daily News:
It's a little overplayed. The zingers would have landed better if the performances had been dialed down to a subtler amplitude. That could come as the J. Barry Lewis-steered production mellows and the performers ease into their roles. The raw material is there.
Wynn Harmon's Elyot is a pleasure to watch, as he glides with world-weary grace through the stickiest of situations or loses his cool entirely in his vicious battles with Amanda, the only person who seems able to rile him.
Michael Amico works wonders again with Dramaworks' cramped stage, transforming it into side-by-side balconies at a luxury resort in coastal France and an upscale apartment in 1930s Paris. Brian O'Keefe's period costumes are so gorgeous they'd tempt many a clothes-loving patron to abscond with them.
Private Lives isn't an easy choice, since its sensibility is so grounded in British irony. Nevertheless, the show amuses, and might even delight with time.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...a robust, satisfying production at Palm Beach Dramaworks, though one that's pitched a bit too sitcom-broadly.
Director J. Barry Lewis’s cast is strong where it needs to be, with the dapper Wynn Harmon and the regal Caroline Strong as Elyot Chase and Amanda Prynne, a privileged pair of former spouses...
Harmon and Strong resort too often to shouting matches where underplayed withering rejoinders seem called for, but otherwise they wear these tour de force roles well enough.
...(set) designer Michael Amico manages two attractive and substantial sets for the evening, making me wish I had stayed seated at intermission and watched the transition between the acts.
The reason Private Lives is perennially revived is Coward’s well-polished dialogue, which offers a glimpse at how the upper crust misbehaves behind closed doors. Add in a couple of accomplished performers like Harmon and Strong and you have a summertime tonic, further proof of Coward’s talent to amuse.
Mary Damiano reviewed for MiamiArtzine.com:
The cast excels at delivering Coward's clipped dialogue, especially Harmon and Strong, who have a grand time bantering bon mots back and forth. Harmon is suave and elegant as Elyot, with a demeanor that only Amanda can penetrate. Strong is perfection--an ice queen with her mismatched new husband, a firebrand with her ex. Together they sizzle and crackle, oozing passion with a mere glance.

As Victor, Amanda's groom, Cliff Burgess is the picture of stiff British manners, all logic and no passion. Katherine M. Tanner portrays Sybil, Elyot's bride, as a wide-eyed, simpering ball of jealousy and insecurity. Director J. Barry Lewis keeps up the brisk pace needed for this witty comedy.
Private Lives is the must-see production of the summer theatre schedule.
Private Lives plays at Palm Beach DramaWorks through August 16, 2009.

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