Opening night, June 20th, and I was planning to go see Private Lives by Noel Coward at Dorset Theatre. It was one of those early summer Vermont days – not overly hot, but slightly muggy. I had gone on a two hour walk and was feeling rather sick. I showered, laid down on the couch, and wondered if I should skip the play that night and exchange my tickets for another night. I decided to go anyway, and I was so glad I did.
First of all, walking into Dorset Theatre, there was the welcome relief of air conditioning. It’s been quite a few years, but before its last renovations, there was no AC at the playhouse. I sat down to soak in the AC and the very restive set of the first act: there were adjoining balconies painted in blue and white, adorned with plants. Between the cool Mediterranean colors and the AC, it really did feel like a vacation at a seaside resort.
The first characters to appear are Elyot Chase, played by Shawn Fagan, and Sybil Chase, his new and significantly younger bride, played by Anna Crivelli. Within the first few exchanges, you know that: these two are totally mismatched, Elyot knows it (and may or may not care), Sybil is going to find out that Elyot is not quite who she imagined, and that the audience is going to enjoy watching it play out.
The next two characters, appearing on the adjoining balcony, are Amanda Prynne, played by Rachel Pickup and her new husband, Victor, played by Hudson Oznowiez. Amanda is the epitome of the phrase – “A woman can never be too rich or too thin” (Wallis Simpson). At one point, when Amanda is talking, almost wistfully, about her former husband Elyot and his “abuse,” Victor says, “You poor child.” Amanda looks at him and says, “I was never a ‘poor child,'” and you know she is not just referring to her financial situation. As with Sybil and Elyot, it does not take long to figure out that this is a mismatched couple, and as with Sybil and Elyot, only one of them, Amanda, already knows it. Victor is about to find out.
Of course, the comic twist is that this is the second marriage for both Amanda and Elyot, who had been married to each other, divorced, and had not seen each other for 5 years. Their new spouses keep peppering them with question about their former spouses, pestering them in the process, and further highlighting to both Amanda and Elyot, just how wrong their latest choices are and, perhaps, how much more suited their previous spouses had been.
The dialog is crisp and witty, except for both Sybil and Victor, who are intentionally and contendly “normal” to the point of being dull. Of course, Amanda and Elyot finally see each other on the balcony, the sparks that were never completely out, ignite, and while their new spouses are off set, separately tending to their freshly tendered egos, Amanda and Elyot take off to her Paris hideaway, of which Victor knows nothing, soothing their barely existing consciences by planning to send telegrams to their now jilted spouses.
Act 2, is where you need to really check your #PC and #MeToo lenses and just enjoy the ride. Amanda and Elyot are wealthy, witty, and wickedly narcissistic. They are both totally suited AND ill-suited for each other because they are so much alike. It doesn’t take long before their passion for each other turns against them, and back again, and again, and again. The jilted spouses show up together, a few days later, and the whole thing ramps up to some very high entertainment. One of the best scenes is when, Sybil and Victor, in defense of their truly indefensible spouses, turn on each other. While their jilted spouses spar, Amanda and Elyot quietly retreat to the couch, feed each other breakfast, sit back and enjoy the show.
Private Lives allows us a glimpse of a bygone era where the idle rich, deliciously and comically, bring out the worst in everyone around them. What happens in Paris, stays in Paris? Thankfully, no. Noel Coward makes the “private lives” of Amanda, Elyot, Sybil, and Victor, very public. You, too, should sit back and enjoy the show.
Buy tickets online or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or contact the Box Office at 802-867-2223 ext. 101 from 12 PM – 6 PM Tuesday – Saturday.
DATES & TIMES
Preview: Thursday, June 20, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Opening Night: Friday, June 21, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Saturday, June 22, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Sunday, June 23, 2019 @ 2:00 PM
Wednesday, June 26, 2019 @ 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM
6:30 PM Community Partner Night: Thursday, June 27, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Friday, June 28, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Saturday, June 29, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Post-Show Talk Back: Sunday, June 30, 2019 @ 2:00 PM
Wednesday, July 3, 2019 @ 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM
Thursday, July 4, 2019 @ 2:00 PM
Friday, July 5, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Saturday, July 6, 2019 @ 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM