As far as providing a venue which promises to enhance an audience’s experience simply by the elegance of its design, few succeed as splendidly as does the International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. The space is intimate without being confined, spacious without being elephantine. Now add to that a celebrated play presented by a talented and skilled cast and you can have yourself one heck of a time at the theater. Well such an opportunity is now offered by the production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives now at ICT.
Now if you don’t go to the theater frequently, are unsure of what delights it can offer, and have just the vaguest notion of who Noel Coward even was (didn’t he write a Joe Crocker song?) here is the chance not simply to “test the water” but to do a cannonball from the highest diving board with.
The plot is a simple one. Five years after ending their tempestuous and strife-filled marriage in divorce Elyot and Amanda by sheer misfortune discover their hotel rooms share a balcony. That’s bad luck. But when they realized that both of them are there with brand spanking new spouses on the first night of their honeymoons – well that’s bad luck wearing a hockey mask and wielding a chain saw.
At a time when the sun never set on the empire, one dressed for dinner and you carried your pound notes safety pinned together, Coward epitomized what it was to be British. Wit and charm were the order of the day and Coward was a master of each. First produced in 1930 Private Lives was an instant hit and happily when seen today you’re not left scratching your head and wondering why. It has lost none of its sparkle nor, in the pre-Stonewall usage, its sense of gaiety.
Capturing the period style and mastering the accents, without their stiff upper lips succumbing to rigor mortis, Caroline Kinsolving and Freddy Douglas are superb as the two star-screwed lovers. Jennice Butler as Sibyl, the squeaky new “Mrs. Elyot Chase,” springs and bounds between passion, petulance and pouting with the expertise of a Romanian gymnast. As Victor, Amanda’s squeaky new groom, Adam J. Smith brings to his character delightful levels of distinction which lesser actors would not even suspect existed. Lastly, Wendy Cutler, in the role of Louise the housekeeper, had me wishing I’d have stuck it out with high school French.
Perhaps director Luke Yankee can be faulted for allowing his thoroughbreds too much rein right outta the gate. The more Elyot and Amanda are tormented the more tickled is an audience at the enviable ending. But if a fault, it is a small one, for otherwise Yankee’s direction brings craft and clarity which polishes this theatrical gem to an even greater luster.
First-class venue, marvelous material, top notch production; the only thing that could have made it better was the cast and crew chipping in to help pay my mortgage.
INTERNATIONAL CITY THEATRE
Long Beach Performing Arts Center
300 East Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90802
August 26 – September 18
Friday, Saturday, Sunday performances $44
Thursday performances $37
CHARGE LINE/TICKET INFORMATION:
(562) 436-4610 or www.InternationalCityTheatre.org