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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Private Lives
Shakespeare Theatre Company

Also see Susan's reviews of The Totalitarians and Ordinary Days


James Waterston and Bianca Amato
The production of NoŽl Coward's Private Lives now at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington is delightful: everyone is on the same page and they interact with each other on an almost telepathic level. The four lead actors are reconnecting with director Maria Aitken, who created this production in 2012 at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.

Coward's comedy of bad manners centers around Amanda (Bianca Amato) and Elyot (James Waterston), two people who can't live without each other but also can't live peacefully with each other. "We were like two violent acids bubbling about in a nasty little matrimonial bottle," Amanda tells her new husband Victor (Jeremy Webb), a kindly and complaisant man, in their honeymoon suite on the French Riviera. Little does she know then that Elyot is in the suite next door on his honeymoon with his new wife Sibyl (Autumn Hurlbert), a wide-eyed and well-bred young woman.

These actors have inhabited their roles long enough that their chemistry seems effortless—an effect that takes enormous work to achieve. The way Amato shifts from elegantly reserved to almost feral is so much fun to watch, and Waterston plays Elyot as a man trying to maintain his dignity while sliding into sloppy emotional outbursts. Webb and Hurlbert also demonstrate how Victor and Sibyl crumble (humorously) through their mistreatment. Jane Ridley, who was not in the Huntington production, finds every laugh as the French maid Louise.

The design team adds to the grandeur of the production. In Allen Moyer's scenic design, the fluttering sheer curtains and wrought-iron balconies of the first act yield to Amanda's palatial Paris apartment, complete with filigree chandelier, baby grand piano, zebra skin rug, and windows that may be 20 feet tall. Candice Donnelly's enviable costumes range from ball gowns to lounging pajamas.

Special mention must be made of Ted Hewlett's fight choreography. When Amanda and Elyot finally let loose, anything might go flying across the stage.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Private Lives
May 29th - July 13th
By NoŽl Coward
Amanda: Bianca Amato
Sibyl: Autumn Hurlbert
Louise: Jane Ridley
Elyot: James Waterston
Victor: Jeremy Webb
Directed by Maria Aitken
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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