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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Reston's 'Private Lives' is rich comedy and delight

Richard Isaacs is Elyot, and Rachael Hubbard is Amanda in Reston Community Players' Private Lives/Traci J. Brooks Photography

A play to see before you die.

It's one of the classics that you've always wanted to see and see again, it's so funny, and now's your chance for Private Lives in Reston.

The "comedy of manners" demonstrates how small, petty things can quickly morph into big, paltry things.  And what's it all about, anyway?

Let the Reston Community Players show you in their 200th production in their 50th anniversary year.  

Much to celebrate!  Including marriage(s) and more of them, darling.

The stunning Art Deco set* (by Maggie Modig, and Bea and Jerry Morse) for the second and third acts makes it hard to divorce your eyes and pay attention to the quick and fast dialogue of couples on honeymoon in France.

Yes, that's couples, plural, who just happen to share the same veranda at the same hotel, two newlyweds who were previously married to the ex right across the terrace! Can you imagine?  

Let the fun begin!

Shades of Shakespeare and watch them weave in and out of their bedchambers until Amanda (Rachael Hubbard) catches on, and (deserving an award for her response) dips up and down in horror, her knees buckling, her mouth flipping open and shut with nary a sound, until she grasps the reality that her ex has landed beside her, married to another woman!

The nerve.

Director Adam Konowe (who triples as lighting designer and fight choreographer) carries off his subjects with aplomb The acting is superb although delivery by Sybil (Caity Brown) is sometimes hard to understand, since she speaks quickly, dearie, with the affected British accent shared by all which comes over, really, quite unaffected. (Tel Monks is dialect coach.)

The lean-back, concave postures at 200 degrees maintained by Amanda and Elyot (Richard Isaacs) with
cigarettes in hand (where are those elongated cigarette holders, prop mistress?) lend themselves perfectly well to their characters as they lounge in Amanda's Parisian love flat where they have fled to escape their new spouses and where the party eventually lands.

Andy Gable is Victor, the fourth member of this quartet, lovingly holding the group together, and married to Amanda.
Lisa Young is Louise in Reston Community Players' Private Lives/Traci J. Brooks Photography

Lisa Young is the French maid, Louise, and although she only speaks her native tongue when she makes her brief appearances to tidy up and whirl around the apartment, it is not necessary to understand French since your imagined script produces the desired effects

It is not unexpected that, at times, audience laughter will drown out the dialogue which happens here.  

The biggest guffaw from the crowd erupted when Elyot tells Amanda that his affairs are okay because "I'm a man," to which Amanda retorts: "Excuse me a moment while I get a caraway biscuit and change my crinoline.

Elyot decries her "advanced views" that "it doesn't suit men for women to be promiscuous."

Mind you, Sir Noël Coward (1899-1973) wrote this play in 1929, one year after women over age 22 got the right to vote in the United Kingdom. He was ahead of his time by about 100 years since women worldwide are not accorded equal rights or pay even today, but, that's another story.

The play first opened in 1930 in London starring Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, and Laurence Olivier, and it played here in 1983 at the Kennedy Center with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton earning a horrid review in the Washington Post. (The link doesn't work. Just Google it.)
Other key Reston crew members include Suzy Alden, assistant director; Laura Baughman, producer; Mary Ann Hall, stage manager; Scott Birkhead, co-master carpenter; William Chrapcynski, sound designer; Judy Whelihan and Charlotte Marson, costume designers; Chris Dore, hair and makeup; Mary Jo Ford, props designer.

*According to program notes, the set details are from the Peace Hotel in Shanghai where Coward wrote the play.

Who: Reston Community Players

What: Private Lives by
Sir Noël Coward
When: 8 p.m., May 12-13, 19-20, and 2 p.m., May 14

Where: Reston Community Center, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, VA 20191

How much: $21, adults; $18, students and seniors

Tickets: Buy online, at the box office, or call 703-476-4500 and press 3 for 24-hour ticket orders.

: 2.5 hours (which seem much shorter) and one intermission.

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