Deeper Dive: A closer look at 'Private Lives'

THE 2021 DEEPER-DIVE SERIES:

A CLOSER LOOK AT ‘PRIVATE LIVES'

Private Lives

Old-fashioned laughter is the cure for what ails us

  • Written by: Noël Coward
  • Year written: 1930
  • Genre: Comedy of manners
  • Private Lives Joan Collins and Simon Jones 1992. T. Charles Erickson photoBroadway debut: 1931. "Private Lives" has been revived seven times since, including a 1983 production starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Pictured right: Joan Collins made her Broadway debut in the 1992 revival with Simon Jones. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson.)
  • Director: Lynne Collins
  • Dates: March 19-April 30, 2021
  • Where: Arvada Center Black Box Theatre
  • The play at a glance: Set in Paris, “Private Lives” concerns a divorced couple who discover they are staying in adjacent rooms at the same hotel while honeymooning with their respective new spouses. Despite having had a perpetually stormy relationship, they realize they still have feelings for each other.
  • Quote from the script: Amanda: “That was the trouble with Elyot and me: We were like two violent acids bubbling about in a nasty little matrimonial bottle.”
  • Noel Coward Private LivesAbout the playwright: Sir Noël Coward (1899-1973) was an English playwright, actor and composer best known for his highly polished comedies. He wrote more than 50 plays, also notably “Hay Fever,” “Present Laughter” and “Blithe Spirit.”
  • Says Lynne Collins: “This play is all about great actors getting to do great dialogue. Coward is just a master of language and wit and high-brow wordplay. His language is effervescent and delightful and also screamingly funny. And the play is weirdly COVID-connected in a way because these two former spouses are trapped together and they can’t stop arguing with each other. I think anyone who has been locked down with a partner these past few months can relate. But this play will help. It can’t be overstated what coming together and laughing can do for people’s mental and physical health.”

'These two former spouses are trapped together and they can’t stop arguing. I think anyone who has been locked down with a partner these past few months can relate.' – Lynne Collins
  • From the author, asked for his advice on acting: “Speak clearly, don’t bump into the furniture and, if you must have motivation, think of your pay packet on Friday.”
  • What critics have said: Famed columnist Walter Winchell described the original Broadway production as "something to go quite silly over.”
  • Fun facts: Coward was in Shanghai when he contracted influenza and wrote “Private Lives” in only four days of convalescence … The play’s second-act love scene was nearly censored as too risqué during its inaugural London run because the characters are no longer married. … That first production starred Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Laurence Olivier and Adrianne Allen (pictured at the top of this page). … Coward wrote one of his most popular songs, "Some Day I'll Find You," for this play.

– Compiled by John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist

Read more: Why Noël Coward is still a writer to relish 

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