It’s sad, really, but true. The relationships that are the most passionate, that excite us and yet infuriate us the most, are also the ones we love the most — to our own detriment. This is the key in Noël Coward’s Private Lives, now on stage at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.  -Ted Deasy and Lise Bruneau in the IRT’s ‘Private Lives’-  It’s 1930, and Elyot (Ted Deasy) and Amanda (Lise Bruneau) are five years divorced, and honeymooning with their new spouses. Coincidences being what they are, they are placed in hotel rooms adjacent to each other, which share a balcony. We first meet Elyot and Amanda with their new spouses, Sybil (Naomi Peters) and Victor (Jay Stratton), respectively. Neither newcomer seems to know their new mate very well, and both are obsessed with their predecessors. The sparks don’t start to fly until Amanda spots Elyot. Then, the quick, sharp dialogue and almost slapstick humor begins to take over the stage.

It’s also much more realistic. Elyot and Amanda have chosen people that represent what they think is appropriate — what will make them “happy.” This makes for very stiff, proper relationships. Once Elyot and Amanda are juxtaposed, however, the biting, screaming, guilt and love that are real life is showcased. Though a sad message is at its heart, Private Lives is a hoot to watch, almost reminiscent of the film War of the Roses. While these people hurt each other, and love each other, you get the voyeuristic glee of watching it all unfold.

All four of the leads are in tip-top shape, fleshing out their characters nicely, grasping the sharp language and turning emotions on and off when necessary. Andrew Lieberman’s sets are stunning. A cool blue light shines on white balcony doors, with lighted umbrellas, for Act 1. Upon returning from the lobby during the first intermission (there are two, though the show only runs about two and a half hours), I was astonished to find a complete transformation on stage — it had been totally converted into a flat in Paris. I wish I had stayed seated and seen it happen.

Another interesting point about this show: Upon completing its run at the IRT, the costumes, scenery and cast will be shipped to Syracuse Stage in Syracuse, N.Y., where its director, Michael Donald Edwards, is the associate artistic director. It will have an additional four-week run there.

Private Lives will continue at the IRT, 140 W. Washington St., through April 17. Call 635-5252 for tickets.

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