Saturday, June 2, 2012

Theatre review: "Private Lives" at Pittsburgh Public Theater-Sunday 3rd June 2012

Pittsburgh Public Theater is serving up a snappy staple of stage offerings from bygone years, Noël Coward’s Private Lives. It was written in and takes place in 1930.That could make you expect a creaky antique or a museum piece and, given today’s constantly transforming modern perspectives, making it irrelevant or trivial.  From that angle you’d be justified in such a conclusion.  But, if you allow yourself to be immersed in its foolishness, you could have a jolly time watching four expert, talented artists from out of town making the most of what’s there.

You might wonder why director Ted Pappas chose to stage this seemingly lightweight fluff but Pappas and his ensemble make the sometimes vinegary confection zing and zip.

You could ask, these days, who’d identify with the two principal characters, Elyot and Amanda? They’re high up on the class ladder with nothing serious on their minds up there and given to constant self-indulgence.  But, as ex-spouses, still harboring the urge to re-connect, they could speak to our own such experiences. And, for those of us for whom battling is a stimulus in a relationship, that too can hit home. 

Coward has fun with that sort of thing, peppering the friction with nasty little stings and nips, giving these shallow people paroxysms of petulance and frustration. He sends up being spoiled. Moreover, Coward knows that such as they, impulsively re-marrying, seek to shake off past mistakes by gravitating to partners who seem the opposite of the spouses they’ve just escaped. A blunder, if the new one is chosen as a reaction to the past one, not for him/herself. That makes them fascinating to watch. Recognizable, even.

Victoria Mack’s Amanda becomes a joy to witness. She shows backbone of a sort, and not just from her revealing gown. She charmingly, convincingly slugs it out verbally and physically. And watching her inhabit a chair oozes command and self-assurance. As Victor, Amanda’s well-named second husband, Laird Mackintosh likewise makes this worth the visit, thoroughly convincing as a chap of earnest uprightness.  

Director Pappas superbly stages reunited Elyot and Amanda’s clinging and caressing which Mack and Micheal Brusasco play well together. Meanwhile, with the assistance of fight choreographer Randy Kovitz, and elsewhere, Pappas expertly has them vibrate with physical and verbal vivacity, landing nasty little slaps.

James Noone’s set has class.  So do Andrew B. Marlay's costumes.

BTW: Elena Alexandratos, the only home town artist on stage, basically gets a walk on. 

Although this fast-paced, lively production may seem solely like entertainment, underneath its bubble and squeak, a few perceptive takes on quirky behavior by married couples offer substance to consider.

Private Lives continues through June 24th at Pittsburgh Public Theater, downtown.412/ 316-1600 or

No comments:

Post a Comment