Private Lives
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Charles Jarrett

Playhouse West in Walnut Creek opens its new season with Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Considered to be his best comedy by many Coward fans, Private Lives also speaks volumes on the eternal bonding powers of passion even when it ironically totters on the ledge of abuse and destruction.

The relationship between Elyot Chase (Greg Baglia) and his x-wife Amanda (Amy Kay Raymond) gives new meaning to the phrases: “I love you. I hate you.” It is a love/hate relationship made in heaven/hell.

Both Elyot and Amanda have recently remarried and are on their honeymoons with their new spouses Sibyl (Kelli Tager) and Victor (Gillen Morrison) when they see each other on the balcony. Yes, as fate and comedy would have it, they inadvertently booked adjacent honeymoon suits. Of course Coward plays up the comic aspects of this fateful meeting, as does the cast. Indeed, the play is so funny that there’s no need to be bothered with the slightly darker undercurrent.

But when Elyot and Amanda once again fall passionately in love with each other and live in sin (in everyone’s eyes but those of the Catholic Church which only recognizes their original marriage), Elyot says to Amanda: “Kiss me before worms come crawling out of your eye sockets.” This too is said in irony and jest and even when Elyot and Amanda’s relationship once again degrades into verbal and physical abuse, it’s done with a sense of humor that keeps the audience laughing.

It’s only long after the show is over that you begin to feel a bit unsettled and start thinking of the long shadow that laughter can sometimes cast.

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