As the Laguna Playhouse celebrates its 90th birthday, it ends the winter season with a classic comedy, Noël Coward’s “Private Lives.” The plot centers on the premise that old love, regardless of how acrimoniously it may have ended, can be re-ignited but not always to the participants’ ultimate satisfaction.
The twists and turns surrounding two divorced couples who happen to remarry and honeymoon at the same resort hotel in adjoining rooms has brought audiences humorous and slightly risqué escape from reality since its premiere in Edinburgh in 1930.
The local production features Winslow Corbett as Sibyl, Josephy Fuqua as Elyot, Matthew Floyd Miller as Victor and Julie Granata as Amanda. Julia Etedi who plays the maid, lives and works in Paris as an actress and model. Bruce Goodrich designed scenes and Julie Keen the costumes. All have extensive resumés, supporting managing director Karen Wood’s conviction that the playhouse is holding its own as a resident theater with a taproot in the Laguna community.
“When we announced our 90th anniversary season and that we were going to stage ‘Private Lives,’ we drew cheers,” said Wood. “With a mix of new works and classics, we are always striving to present work that speaks to the community.”
In pre-World War II England (and the U.S. during its 1931 Broadway production) a second act love scene between a divorced couple, married to other people yet, raised eyebrows. But, with mores in accelerating flux, the comedy took hold as a popular staple. (In 1983, “Private Lives” was revived on Broadway with headliners Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, notorious for tying and untying the knot offstage.)
“Private Lives” will still engage audiences, maintains Andrew Barnicle, the theater’s former artistic director who resigned last year in what will be his final directing commitment at the Playhouse. “The show is hilarious. It’s very clever and thrilling and seems very contemporary to me,” he said.
“I think what younger people might find in this play is that marital fidelity and notions of social convention just prove that, the more they change, the more they stay the same.”