Private Lives

Sparks fly when Amanda and Elyot, formerly married to each other, find themselves in adjoining hotel honeymoon suites – each with a brand-new spouse in tow. Private Lives, Noël Coward‘s stylish, savvy comedy about the people we can’t live with – or without – opens at International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center on August 26. Low-priced previews take place on August 23, 24 and 25.

Amanda and Elyot can’t live together and they can’t live apart. When they discover they are honeymooning in the same hotel with their new spouses, they not only fall in love all over again – they learn to hate each other all over again too. Abandoning their new spouses, the reunited couple soon realizes the same issues that ended their first, turbulent marriage continue to plague them. Coward’s biting wit and absurd irreverence unmask the conventions and social rituals by which people present their “public’” selves to the world, revealing the “private” passions and motivations that lie beneath a veneer of etiquette and respectability. It’s a dark comedy of manners that remains sharply relevant today in a world filled with tabloid scandals and celebrity journalism.

When first produced in 1930, Private Lives was an instant critical and commercial success, earning Coward the honor of being the highest paid author in the English-speaking world. He also enjoyed playing the role of Elyot for some time after the play’s premiere, alongside his dear friend Gertrude Lawrence. Subsequent revivals on Broadway and the West End have earned nominations and major theater awards including Drama Desk, World Theatre, and Tony Awards.

The ICT production stars Freddy Douglas (praised by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the best Hamlets in memory” for his performance at A Noise Within) as Elyot; Caroline Kinsolving (most recently seen as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew for the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company) as Amanda; Jennice Butler (previously directed by Luke Yankee in The Women) as Sibyl; Adam J. Smith (last seen at ICT as Bob in How the Other Half Loves) as Victor; and Wendy Cutler (improv comedy with Off the Wall, L.A. TheatreSports, and Funny You Should Ask) as Louise.

Set design is by Kurt Boetcher; lighting and sound design are by Bill Georges; costume design is by Kim DeShazo; props are by Patty and Gordon Briles; hair and wig design is by Anthony Gagliardi; production stage manager is Maya M. Rodgers; casting is by Michael Donovan; and the producer is caryn desai [sic].

Noël Coward (1899-1973) was a remarkably prolific writer with dozens of plays, several films, hundreds of songs plus volumes of autobiographies, stories and verse to his credit, produced in his rapid-fire style from the 1920s through the 1960s. His name became synonymous with urbanity, sophistication, incomparable wit and a certain sentimentality. The characters in his 27 plays are usually rich, vain, spoiled and snobbish couples who express themselves with a brittle badinage that covers the suffering they undergo together or apart. Coward’s success was such that five of his plays were hits in London in 1925. Among the other Coward titles still frequently charming audiences all over the world are Blithe Spirit, Hay Fever, Present Laughter, Design for Living and The Vortex. His major films include the romantic masterpiece Brief Encounter (1946) and the patriotic film In Which We Serve (1942), for which he was director, actor and producer. Unlike fellow bon vivant Oscar Wilde (to whom Coward is often compared), Coward firmly believed in theater solely for amusement’s sake – and he deemed his own plays “important” because “they had given a vast number of people a great deal of pleasure.”

International City Theatre is the Resident Professional Theater at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center and the recipient of the Margaret Harford Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle for “Sustained Excellence in Theater.”

Private Lives runs Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, August 26 through September 18. Tickets are $37 on Thursdays, and $44 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night which is $55 and includes a reception with the actors following the performance. Preview performances take place on Tuesday, August 23; Wednesday, August 24; and Thursday, August 25 @ 8 pm. Preview tickets are $29.

International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 300 E. Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach. For reservations and information, call the ICT Box Office at (562) 436-4610 or go to www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

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