Want to be superficial and delight in the moment? Then dash to the best show in town right now: the Huntington Theatre Company’s season ender PRIVATE LIVES! Witness an effervescent ensemble who add extra crackle to Noel Coward’s crisply witty comedy. On the surface everyone behaves beautifully, while underneath feelings are as unstable and evanescent as champagne bubbles. You’ll be intoxicated within the first five minutes, as the once madly in love and now divorced Amanda and Elyot suddenly find themselves in adjoining hotel suites on their respective second honeymoons– with their oblivious new spouses. It’s a recipe for madcap disaster!
The curtain opens on two balconies. On one, is Elyot and his new bride the frilly Sybil played to simpering perfection by Autumn Hurlbert. She’s the perfect foil for James Waterston (Sam’s son) who steals the show as the debonair Elyot; he’s dashing and dramatic– with a streak of the absurd. Steve Martin-like, Waterston immediately zeros in on the lunatic underpinnings of the character and the situation.
On the adjoining balcony is Elyot’s ex-wife, the worldly and acerbic Amanda played by a soigne Bianca Amato. When Amanda and Elyot reconnect, it’s like lightning striking twice. The heat of their rough and tumble passions find them tangoing one minute and brawling the next, all the while exchanging bitchy barbs with effortless elan. They’re dazzling, like thoroughbreds. Bringing up the rear, then, is Amanda’s ass of a new husband the pompous Victor, played by Jeremy Webb as a blustering boob.
From Deauville to Paris, cocktails are flung and insults are slung; pianos are played and beautiful furniture is destroyed (the set is gorgeous) by lovers in silk dressing gowns while the maid (Paula Plum)serves tea. It’s a world dripping with sarcasm and wealth, masking a mad scramble to find the perfect etiquette for less than perfect inclinations. Coward has set these tumultuous PRIVATE LIVES in motion while the Huntington Theatre Company production under the direction of the legendary Maria Aitken has made it all look carefree– but no less potent.