Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Private Lives" from Pittsburgh Public Theatre

"Private Lives" is the quintessential Noel Coward romp through "only hurt the one you love" antics set in high-society mannerisms. Amanda and Elyot, divorced, end up in the same hotel in adjacent rooms with their new spouses, Victor and Sibyl (respectively). Upon seeing one another again, Amanda and Elyot realize they are still very much in love...or in "love to hate".

As always, the Pittsburgh Public turns out a fantastic team of acting professionals. There's a lot of zany antics in "Private Lives", and the result threatens to de-rail at any moment. But, even when they're chasing each other around the room hurling furniture decor, the cast's performance is clean and precise. It makes the comedy, largely a show of clever one-liners, all the more funnier for their skill.

Michael Brusasco (Elyot Chase) and Victoria Mack (Amanda Prynne) 's pairing turns out to be the basically amoral and ultimately selfish couple. However, the performers are so adapt at their charming sophistication, the audience ends up rooting for them no matter what their characters do. We're happy if they're in love one minute, and equally happy with her smashing a gramaphone record over his head. Quite frankly, there's no absolutely terrible couple we'd like to see end up together more.

Laird Mackintosh (Victor Prynne) and Amanda Leigh Cobb (Sibyl Chase) also round out the excellent ensemble as the unlucky in love civilians who get caught up in the tornado that is Elyot and Amanda. These performers create whole, individual characters that stand opposite of yet perfectly in sync with their more overt (though maritally short-lived) spouses. Each provides their own comic flair in roles that could simply be outshined by the leads but never are in this fantastic ensemble gambol.

In a play manners, the set can sometimes be neglected, leaving the actors with little to play with but the words. Thsi production avoids that gaff, giving even the simplest scenes lots of doors and props and obstacles that must be jumped over or cuddled on or evaded when thrown. This creates unique and intricate staging that feeds into the energy of the language - meaning the massive amount of talking never gets boring and we can't wait for the next line.

- The Eponymous Theatre Critic runs through a meadow of memories. And, wheverever you are, don't despiar. Today is the color purple.

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