Noel Coward’s sparring partners Amanda (the sleek, chic and ferocious Kim Cattrall) and Elyot (the debonair, callow, feisty and oh so charming Paul Gross) can’t get enough of each other.
After being divorced for five years they find themselves on adjoining balconies at Deauville in the South of France, now married to new spouses (she to stuffy Victor – a droll Simon Paisley Day; he to the younger and prone to giggle Sybil – a perfect Anna Madeley), on their honeymoon, overlooking the yacht basin with a full moon reflected in their stemmed martini glasses.
Music is in the air as well as sexual tension – “Someday I’ll Find You” written by Mr. Coward brings them back to the days when they were first attracted to each other. This is short lived as they quickly revert to the Punch and Judy relationship that drove them apart. It’s delightful.
With the wonderfully witty dialogue supplied by Mr. Coward what could go wrong? After a brilliant first act where the farcical plot is set up and we are introduced to all four characters played with great style and fun by the cast we find ourselves in the Parisian apartment of Amanda where she and Elyot have escaped to live in sin – catching up on old times, arguing some more, drinking brandy, dancing a fox trot and cavorting around the most bizarre set on Broadway designed by Rob Howell I have ever seen.
When the curtain went up it took my breath away and not in a good way. I missed at least ten minutes of dialogue taking it all in. It’s cavernous. There is a mural on the wall depicting some ducks chasing fish and the piece de resistance – a huge, three tiered fish bowl with gold fish swimming about. Disconcerting, to say the least. A visual I shall never forget no matter how hard I try.
After that, the pace peters out. The champagne cocktail set up by the previous act somehow looses its effervescence despite the valiant attempts to keep things afloat by everyone involve including the arrival of Victor and Sybil in pursuit of their respective spouses. And a French maid Louise ( a woebegone Caroline Lena Olsson) who only speaks French and shrugs off the shenanigans by going about her business as if to say – oh these rich and silly people have nothing better to do, so I shall make the coffee and serve the brioche and try to straighten out the mess – as usual.
Despite the goldfish, PRIVATE LIVES is a most entertaining show with great performances by the entire cast. Kim Cattrall is a revelation – a great comedienne and quite adept at physical comedy. Her made-for-each-other cohort – Paul Gross in his formal wear and silk pajamas is a metrosexual’s dream come true.
Is this the ideal revival that Mr. Coward would have envisioned? Who knows? Perhaps if he had a fetish for goldfish he’d be delighted.
At The Music Box. www.privatelivesbroadway.com Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann
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