REVIEW: Private Lives [ShawChicago]

Private Lives

ShawChicago continues their 2015-2016 season of readings with Private Lives, a play by Noel Coward about a divorced couple who, on honeymoon with their respective new spouses, reunite and fall in love again. While the play never goes very deep, the dialogue-heavy play is perfect for a reading, and the actors shine.

Mary Michell, Doug MacKechnie, Leslie Ann Handelman (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

Mary Michell, Doug MacKechnie, Leslie Ann Handelman (photography by Janine Pixley)

While Amanda (Mary Michell) and Elyot (Michael Lasswell) are on their second honeymoons, their new spouses (Leslie Ann Handelman as Sibyl and Doug MacKechnie as Victor) can’t hide their insecurity in their new marriages, as they continually ask about their predecessors. And for good reason, it appears, since Amanda and Elyot run off together as soon as they reconnect. Unfortunately for them, while it becomes clear why they were together, it becomes equally clear why they broke up.

Mary Michell and Michael Lasswell (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

Mary Michell and Michael Lasswell (photography by Janine Pixley)

Amanda and Elyot obviously have a dysfunctional relationship, full of bickering and threats of violence. Still, they have chemistry, flickering back and forth between near-violence to fond reminiscences of their married days. And while their relationship is unhealthy, when they laugh together, it’s easy to see why they would stay together. This second time around, they do try to learn from their previous mistakes, setting up a code phrase to silence themselves when arguments get heated, in an attempt to fight less.

Mary Michell and Michael Lasswell (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

Mary Michell and Michael Lasswell (photography by Janine Pixley)

Sibyl is very pretty but also very young, only 23, and her crying makes her sound like a spoiled child. Although she and Victor team up to follow their respective spouses after they elope together, Victor become impatient with Sibyl, and they begin to mirror the more combative aspects of Amanda and Elyot’s relationship.

Doug MacKechnie and Leslie Ann Handelman (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

Doug MacKechnie and Leslie Ann Handelman (photography by Janine Pixley)

The show itself is a lot of fun and very light-hearted despite the arguments, which means that it glosses over most of the issues. It makes light of the cheating, as Coward does in other plays (Design for Living, for example), and dismisses the physical violence as a quirk of their relationship. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Private Lives, and the mischievous quality to Amanda and Elyot’s interactions when they’re not fighting makes me wish they could find a way to move past their quick tempers and forge a more stable relationship.

Mary Michell and Michael Lasswell (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

Mary Michell and Michael Lasswell (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

Lydia Berger Gray, Michael Lasswell, Mary Michell, Doug MacKechnie, and Leslie Ann Handleman (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

Lydia Berger Gray, Michael Lasswell, Mary Michell, Doug MacKechnie, and Leslie Ann Handleman (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

ShawChicago Theater Company at Ruth Page Center for the Arts – 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL

November 21 – December 14, 2015

Tickets: $30.00 General, $25.00 Senior Citizen, $15.00 Students.

By Noel Coward, Directed by Barbara Zahora

Robert Scogin (Artistic Director), Tony Courier (Managing Director), Lisa Gordon (Stage Manager), George Zahora (Sound Design), Betty Johnson (House Manager), Natalie Keller (Box Office Manager)

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