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 effortlessan 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