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From Old Hollywood Glamour to Modern Mayhem: “Private Lives” finds the messy truth in a classic comedy at Irish Classical Theatre

Irish Classical Theatre Company (ICTC) is set to delight audiences with its production of Noël Coward’s timeless comedy, Private Lives, running June 7– June 30, 2024, at The Andrews Theatre in downtown Buffalo.  ICTC Associate Director Chris Kelly leads a dynamite cast, featuring Anna Fernandez, Ben Michael Moran, Maria Pedro, Darryl Semira, and Jenn Stafford in this fun and fresh take on Noël Coward’s classic comedy.

The play, which delves into the complexities of love, loathing, and societal expectations, has delighted audiences since the play’s premiere in 1930.  Written by the prolific wit Noël Coward, who was known for his masterful blending of humor, romance, and social commentary, the work remains relevant and engaging for contemporary audiences. Coward’s ability to craft comedic banter while providing deeper insights into human nature has cemented Private Lives as a classic in theatrical literature.

“Noël Coward is the definition of a polymath. In the United States, we probably would have called him a Renaissance man,” said Matt Refermat, dramaturg for the production. “I like to think of him as one part George S Kaufman, one part Cole Porter, one part Norman Lear and then one part Andy Cohen.”  According to Refermat, Noël Coward was often referred to as “the master” during his lifetime, and remarkably for the time, Coward lived his life as an openly gay man and was never closeted. Refermat also spoke of the importance of Coward’s comedic sensibilities.  “He’s the inheritor of this tradition of light comedy inside of the United Kingdom. But, he’s also the grandfather of the situation comedy, or even today, reality television. Private Lives is so beautiful because it gives us these characters and then sets them up in a situation so that they kind of conflict and combat – out of which comes a resolution.” 

Matt Refermat, Dramaturg

Private Lives tells the story of Elyot and Amanda, a divorced couple who, despite being happily remarried to new partners, find themselves honeymooning at the same hotel in adjacent rooms. This unexpected reunion reignites their tumultuous relationship, causing chaos for their new spouses, Sibyl and Victor. Coward’s brilliant script explores the thin line between passion and conflict, capturing the essence of human relationships with wit and sophistication.

“Audiences have always hungered for delicious conflict. It’s really kind of lovely to watch that, because [the characters] get to behave the kind of way we all want to behave, but we don’t behave because of social mores or being socialized, or whatever kind of social contract we signed,” said Refermat, adding, “But these people, in this moment who, look kind of upper echelon… They beat each other up with words, with pillows with, you know, their hands and it is just kind of as visceral as The Real Housewives, but it has this kind of elegance of The Crown. So, it really does feed both sides.

Refermat believes that the comedy is perfect for all Buffalo audience members, because it highlights the juxtaposition of our “private lives,” the ridiculous, messy, combative, and joyous moments behind closed doors, and the elegant and refined ways we want to be perceived in public.  ”I do believe that this is the kind of play that will warm the hearts of theatergoers who make theater a regular part of their diet. But, I also truly believe that if this is a person’s first time seeing a classic comedy, this could be a gateway drug to it.  It very much meets almost everyone where they’re at, but then delivers to them… You do find yourself getting caught up in caring about these people, caring about their struggles, caring about their foibles, but also caring about what happens next.”

In addition to the hilarious dialogue and plot, Private Lives promises to transport audiences into a world of elegance and refinement.  “The first act takes place on the northwest coast of France. And we’re out on a veranda of sorts, so there’s the waves, there’s the music, there’s the moonlight. And there’s this just old Hollywood moment where [actor] Ben Moran lights a cigarette for [actor] Jen Stafford. And it’s just so classic,” said Refermat. “It’s such a gorgeous setup, that in the first act, you think, ‘I want to go there. I want to do that. I want to have a honeymoon over there, or listen to that band play that music on the seashore.’”

Private Lives at Irish Classical Theatre Company runs June 7– June 30, 2024.  Tickets are available here.

The post From Old Hollywood Glamour to Modern Mayhem: “Private Lives” finds the messy truth in a classic comedy at Irish Classical Theatre appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

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