03 March 2007

Private Lives - reviews

Willamette Week
[NEW REVIEW] If the essence of this Noel Coward classic is a study of fanatical human behavior, Integrity Production's rendition of Private Lives has nailed it. Instead of individual actors playing the distinct characters of Amanda, Elyot, Sibyl and Victor in this over-the-top tale of lust, love, infidelity and British dandyism, director Kerry E. Sorci has opted for a game of theatrical work-up. Six actors interchangeably play the four roles, which creates interesting and hilarious (albeit slightly confusing) character interpretations that focus on the temperament and nature of the characters, instead of the idiosyncrasies of the artists. Private Lives is well performed, and despite the chaos, characters are wholly believable—give or take the occasional regression into an American accent. MIKE THELIN. Integrity Productions at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont St., 286-3456. 8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 4 pm Sundays. Closes March 18. $12-15. Thursdays are "pay what you will."

The Oregonian
Theater review Cast creatively updates Coward's 'Private Lives'
Iffy laughs - Troupe overcomes marital abuse and a tag-teaming of four roles
Thursday, March 01, 2007
The on-again, off-again relationship of a once unhappily married but now divorced couple may be material for contemporary comedy. But when this twosome slips into physically violent behavior, it's difficult to see how, given our growing sensitivities to spousal abuse, we can still laugh.
Yet there's the magic of Noel Coward -- a magic not lost in Integrity Productions' generally fun but occasionally overburdened "Private Lives."
In this intimate 1930 comedy, which Coward wrote as a vehicle for Gertrude Lawrence and himself, we chuckle as well-to-do sophisticates Amanda Prynne and Elyot Chase literally wrestle across the floor.
"Very few people are completely normal, really, deep down in their private lives," Coward's ever-so-clever Amanda remarks.
In this neat little play, personal problems bubble away in sparkling humor. Coward was a master of style, and his glittering comedy of manners so engages us that we're unfazed by any disturbing matters.
Living up to the scintillating Gertrude Lawrence and Coward himself isn't easy, and Integrity Productions avoids the challenge by divvying up the lead roles among multiple actors. Three actresses play Amanda as well as Elyot's new wife, Sibyl, in tag-team fashion. Similarly, Elyot and Amanda's new spouse, Victor, are passed around among three actors.
This arrangement may be a little disorienting, but distinct aspects of each character are interestingly highlighted -- especially with Amanda. Kate Mura depicts an acrobatic but intriguingly mysterious Amanda; Jessica Zodrow a sweeter, playful Amanda; and Stephanie Routh an Amanda with an imperious edge.
All these comings and goings require careful choreography. Director Kerry E. Sorci oversees the transitions well, maintaining the play's flow and also intensifying the climaxes of acts II and III by integrating all six actors into the four-character action. Character-shifting and doubling can distract from the smart dialogue, but the controlled pandemonium of these crescendos translates Coward's theatrical fireworks into appealing stage antics for audiences unaccustomed to the verbal pyrotechnics of witty comedy.
Sorci tries to do too much by using the simple but elegant set and a brief mimetic prologue to call attention to how media constructs celebrity -- a motif that isn't developed enough to do anything other than clutter the production. Still, her cast gives Coward a contemporary spin.