by Margaret Croyden


Photo of Margaret Croyden
Margaret Croyden is a theater reviewer and essayist for the New York Theatre Wire.

by Noel Coward
dir. Richard Eyre
The Music Box (239 W. 45th Street)
by Margaret Croyden – Croyden’s Corner
November 22, 2011

If you’re in a dark mood and want to travel back in time to the 1930s in a frivolous world of glitz and glam, cocktails, and England’s upper crust, then go see Private Lives by Noël Coward.. In this production, directed by Richard Eyre, glamour is the word. Set and costume designer Rob Howell coupled with lighting designer David Howe did a fabulous job setting the stage for glamour. Everything on the set: the clothes, people, lighting, it all sparkles with attractive colors, lights, and, of course, cocktails. Coward’s Private Lives is a nonsensical play with plenty of laughs. A master of so-called sophisticated comedy, Coward had on his mind the sophisticated people and their style before anything else.

Private Lives is an old play. It’s about two people whom were once married to each other, but have now divorced and both found new partners. The two couples find one other in adjacent hotel rooms and it is there that the formerly married pair realizes they were much happier with each other than they are with their new spouses. So, they decide to do something about it: escape and reunite with each other. It’s a crazy plot with plenty of laughs, or so the audience thought.

Richard Eyre, a well-known, brilliant director who has done great work in London has now produced a quick-moving, silly, dated play. I guess he did it for the money. While it moves fast, the clothes are great, and the audience seems to really enjoy themselves, there is one thing: the stage is poorly designed to accommodate those in the first several rows of the audience. The couples are on a split balcony, and placed before them is a tall fence. If you’re in one of the front rows, such as I was, the combination of a split balcony and tall fence makes it a strain to view the action on the stage.

A strange question that Private Lives raises is the intention behind Noël Coward’s wit. It’s a story about the posh upperclass, and openly depicts how ridiculous they are. Was Coward a master of irony or did he really admire these people? Keeping in mind that while he lived this lifestyle, it was not a class he was born into.

Margaret Croyden's new book is The Years In Between – A Reporters Journey: World War II-The Cold War.

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