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Thomasin Savaiano, right, as Amanda in Wayside Theater’s production of ‘Private Lives,’ rehearses trying to see Peter Boyer, as Elyot, in a hand mirror. — Rich Cooley/Daily

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Elyot reacts to seeing his ex-wife Amanda turn up in the French hotel where he is honeymooning with his new wife, Sybil, and she with her new husband Victor in Wayside Theatre's "Private Lives." — Rich Cooley/Daily

Sparks, tempers fly in play set in 1930s France

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

Imagine going to a French hotel on your honeymoon and bumping into your ex -- an ex for whom you still have feelings. Then imagine that your ex is there on honeymoon as well.

Would you laugh or start an argument or scream or play it cool? For the characters in Wayside Theatre's upcoming play "Private Lives," by Noel Coward, all of the above are likely to happen.

"We read through the play yesterday and all laughed and had a good time," director Warner Crocker said on the second day of rehearsals.

Thomasin Savaiano plays Amanda who arrives at the hotel with her new husband Victor, played by Michael Reid. She runs in to Elyot, played by Peter Boyer, who is there with his new wife Sybil, played by Theresa McGuirk.

Written in 1930, the play has been around so long that Crocker couldn't be sure Wayside hasn't performed it before. Still, it hasn't lasted all these years for nothing, he said.

So what happens when two couples become entangled on the same honeymoon?

"That's one of the intriguing things about it," Crocker said. "In some ways I compare this play to the TV show 'Seinfeld.' ... It's about nothing."

It's about passion, for better or worse, he said. It's packed with comedy, romance, marriage and divorce. It shows how Amanda and Elyot had this one bright moment in time during which their relationship made perfect sense and after which they wondered what on earth they were thinking when they thought marriage would be a good idea.

Savaiano called the plot intriguing, since Amanda and Elyot have a connection that's totally different from what most other people experience.

"It's a very complex relationship," she said.

As Boyer put it, "It's like boxers falling in love," to which Savaiano added, "Really snooty, petty boxers falling in love."

"You really truly never see what's coming," she said.

Elyot, Boyer said, is a more emotional version of the character Gregory House in the TV show "House."

"It's actually a role that Noel Coward initially wrote for himself," Boyer said. "It's like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor."

And it's that intensity that brings them back together, Savaiano said.

Victor, she said, "is the complete opposite of Elyot, and probably not a really good choice at all. She married him, which was a stupid idea."

"Victor's a lovely man," Savaiano said, "but not for this woman. She wants crazy."

With Sybil, Elyot "hopes to have an undramatic life," Boyer said

Said Crocker, "It's much more a romantic comedy than a farse. It's through the characters that the comedy unveils."

"[The audience] will see a little bit of themselves in Elyot and Amanda as well as in Sybil and Victor." Comedy works best when the audience can recognize themselves in the characters, he said.

"And that's what I think makes it so wonderfully funny."

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