by Shirley Lorraine
Classic comedy in Camarillo
Now on stage at the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse through September 16 is Noël Cowards’ classic comedy Private Lives.
Sir Noël Coward a (knighted in 1970) dabbled in all parts of the theater throughout his lengthy career, from acting to directing to writing and seemingly everything in between. The quite cheeky Englishman is most well-known for his “comedies of manners” – Private Lives being one of the most successful. The dialogue is clipped, succinct, delightful and humorous as it points out and highlights the human condition and many of its failings.
Newlyweds Elyot and Sibyl Chase have chosen a hotel in Deauville, France for their honeymoon. So have newlyweds Amanda and Victor Prynne who reside in the suite next door. All goes swimmingly until Elyot and Amanda, who were previously married to each other, realize that not only have they entered unions of dubious lasting power, they still have strong feelings for each other. They decide to run away together to rekindle their passion, leaving Sibyl and Victor in the lurch. Ultimately, the jilted parties confront the pair and comedic chaos ensues.
The sparkling dialogue exposes the clear double standard thinking of the 1930’s to hilarious response.
All the characterizations are strong and consistent. Alan Waserman, playing Elyot, gives a solid performance that brings forth lots of laughs as he delivers sentiments of the times with a straight face. His new young bride, Sibyl, is suitably spirited in the person of Lauren Zika. She carries off the flighty role with vigor. Amanda, Elyot’s first wife and the center of the plays whirlwind action is portrayed by Genevieve Levin, who attacks the part with fervor. She is well matched to Bill Sweeney as her new husband Victor, a caricatured English gentleman.
Scenes between the two men are delightful as the characters battle each other with more wit than brawn. The English accents are carried off extremely well by all and it took a few minutes to acclimate my ears to its cadence. Because of that combined with musical background, the opening scene was a challenge for me. As soon as the music stopped I was able to focus on the verbal spars more closely and able to enjoy the wordplay.
Theresa Secor, a familiar face in Ventura County Theater, adds brief comic touches as Louise, the maid. Although her lines are spoken entirely in French, she certainly delivers a clear message through expressions and body language.
The 1930’s costuming credited to Erin Heulitt is simply dashing – flattering to each person and adds a special touch to the strong characterizations.
Set design by Director Dean Johnson gave most attention to the second half scenes, an interior suite in Paris, France. Just enough detail was given without overcrowding the set with period knick-knacks. The opening sequence on the hotel veranda was less polished, in my opinion, but did convey the appropriate tone.
Private Lives is a welcome look at classic (and clean) comedy of the highest quality.
Private Lives runs Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m. through September 16
Camarillo Skyway Playhouse
330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo
(805) 388-5716 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Adults $20, Students, seniors (60+) and military, $15, Under 12, $10