Shakespeare Theatre Company to Present Noel Coward's Private Lives

May 8, 2014
Shakespeare Theatre Company

Noel Coward's fast-talking comedy of manners Private Lives will close the Shakespeare Theatre Company's 2013-2014 Season. Directed by Maria Aitken (2009-2010 Season's As You Like It), Private Lives enjoyed wild success at the Huntington Theatre Company in 2012, being deemed "a diamond-sharp production" (The Boston Globe) and will find a home at the Lansburgh Theatre from May 29-July 13, 2014 (450 7th Street NW).

STC Artistic Director Michael Kahn is pleased to welcome this "intimate comedy" to the Lansburgh and in the hands of a true Coward great: "Maria Aitken is the foremost interpreter as an actress of Noel Coward in our time. When I saw her production in Boston, it was a beautiful treat and is an excellent send up to Coward's aesthetic."

Beginning her career as an actress on the British stage, Aitken has played more Noel Coward heroines than any other actress. Her Coward credits include Elvira in the Harold Pinter directed Blithe Spirit, Gilda in Design for Living, Judith Bliss in Hay Fever, and two turns playing Amanda in Private Lives, once in 1980 on the West End and then in 1984, the latter of which she directed. "An actor's challenge in Private Lives, is mastering that sense of improvisation," she states. "The characters are spontaneous and they bounce off each other's mood. It's what I like most about the play; it breaks all the rules and is still triumphantly successful as a piece of playwriting." Aitken's directorial work has spanned the globe, from Broadway to the West End, and from Coward to Shakespeare.

Noel Coward's quick-witted comedy opens in a blissful hotel in France where divorcees Elyot and Amanda are on honeymoon with their new spouses. One evening, the ex-couple discover each other on neighboring balconies and as they try to maintain a veneer of etiquette and respectability, old feelings make matters complicated. What follows is a boxing match of words, manners laced with subtext and glamour that rendered this play as the epitome of Noel Coward's style and technique. Private Lives is a witty and irreverent play about the people we cannot live with or without.

Bianca Amato* and James Waterston* spar as the bewildered divorcees Amanda and Elyot. The two played doting lovers Jack and Gwendolen in the Sir Peter Hall directed The Importance of Being Earnest (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and were apt to take on an equally witty pair. Following in the wake of Gertrude Lawrence and Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, and Aitken herself, Amato and Waterston were lauded for their perfect "sizzling chemistry" by The Boston Globe. The cast of Private Lives is rounded out by Autumn Hurlbert* as na├»ve newlywed Sybil, Jane Ridley* as Louise, and Jeremy Webb* as Victor who was last seen on the STC stage in the title role of Don Juan (2005-2006 Season). 

The production's slick look is attributed toscenic Designer Allen Moyer who drew inspiration from the artist Raoul Dufy to create the effortless and bold world of Coward's stylish comedy. The look is aided by Costume Designer Candice Donnelly, and returning Measure for Measure Lighting Designer Philip S. Rosenberg.The songs of Noel Coward come alive with the help of the Sound Design and Musical Arrangement duo Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen, who recently worked on such Broadway hits as No Man's Land & Waiting for Godot and Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Maria Aitken is assisted by choreographer Daniel Pelzig, who returns to STC after his electrifying work on Measure for Measure, Fight Choreographer Ted Hewlett, Head of Voice and Text Ellen O'Brien, and Music Director Barbara Irvine. The artistic team is rounded it out by Literary Associate Drew Lichtenberg, Assistant Director Gus Heagerty, Production Stage Manager Leslie Sears*, and Assistant Stage Manager Elizabeth Clewley*.