Review: 'Private Lives' at TheatreWorks New Milford

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

New Milford, CT - TheatreWorks New Milford opened the Noel Coward classic comedy ‘Private Lives’ on Friday for a five-week run. This “sophisticated comedy of manners” was directed and designed by Frank Arcaro, who calls this piece, the most produced play in Broadway history, “a perfectly structured trifle.” The TheatreWorks production is certainly sophisticated and the four talented actors do very well with the snappy dialogue that brings the ill-tempered characters to life. 

“The characters in ‘Private Lives’ talk silly nonsense while trying to figure themselves out, and we get to revel in their endearingly witty repartee and outlandish behavior. They are eternally, endlessly fascinating…” writes Mr. Arcaro. The opening night audience seemed to enjoy watching the divorcees Elyot and Amanda that improbably book adjoining rooms while honeymooning with their new spouses. They both immediately realize that they have made a pair of mistaken marriages and flee to Amanda’s Paris flat. Predictably they are discovered by their jilted spouses in the second act of this play written in 1930. 

I followed along through the first act where there were lines by the newlyweds that cleverly mirrored each other as they stood on their respective balconies outside their hotel rooms. I smiled at the rapid-fire lines of these petulant four. Then there was the physical fight between Elyot and Amanda in their pajamas (choreographed by Kevin Sosbe) and I began to find it all quite tedious. I no longer cared what was going to happen to the uncoupled couples that were acting like supremely spoiled children.  

The look of the piece was sophisticated thanks to the lovely costumes by seamstress Rhonda Schutz and a set made more lovely by furniture, art, fixtures and rugs loaned by Applebrook at Home in New Milford and Persian Rug Gallery in Woodbury for this production. Lighting design by Tom Libonate and the director added to the look. 

The actors were all well-cast and embraced their characters most professionally. Anna Fagan made her TheatreWorks debut as the young bride Sybil Chase and J. Scott Williams (‘Seascapes’ in 2013) was convincingly blustery as the groom Victor Prynne. Christina Van De Water also made her TheatreWorks debut in the role of the French-speaking maid Louise.

As the members of the on-again, off-again couple, Vicki Sosbe made her mark as Amanda, a role that was on her theatrical bucket list. Jonathan Jacobson, who I remembered from his role in ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ at the Warner, was equally a good fit in the role of Elyot Chase. Of course he sang one little solo perfectly. They both did well with the crisp pace and the frivolous nature of the proceedings. 

Before the show, a TheatreWorks board member informed the audience about changes on their board. Glenn Couture is stepping down, as is Rich Pettibone. Publicist Tom Libonate is also taking a break. The 50th season at the venue will open with ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ directed by Alicia Dempster. 

There was the usual opening night gala following the performance complete with cuisine, cocktails and fun. ‘Elf, Jr. The Musical’ by TW Kids will be performed Dec. 3 and 4 at 10am and 2pm.  ‘Private Lives’ by Noel Coward continues at TheatreWorks through January 7, 2017 Friday and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm.

Photo by Rich Pettibone