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Review: Good acting, bad behavior aperfect match in Wayside play

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Peter Boyer, left, as Elyot, and Thomasin Savaiano, as Amanda, perform a scene from “Private Lives” at Wayside Theatre. — Courtesy Wayside Theatre

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

Behaving badly is encouraged in Noel Coward's "Private Live" at Wayside Theatre, but the five-member cast performs admirably.

Divorcees Elyot and Amanda gave separation their best shot, even managing to last five years away from each other. Each found something like love with someone else; however, when fate finds them both on their honeymoon in adjoining rooms at a French inn, it's only a matter of time -- minutes actually -- before they fall into each other's arms like old times and hastily decide to run away together.

Well-cast, with Wayside veterans Peter Boyer and Thomasin Savaiano playing lead neurotics Elyot and Amanda, the uniquely divided three-act play provides a fun night away from the humdrum of polite society.

They're snarky, they're overly dramatic, they require a safe word to snap them out of volatile arguments, and they give little thought to the destruction they leave in their wake, yet deep down Elyot and Amanda know exactly who they are, individually and together, and that puts them one step ahead of Sybil and Victor, the momentary spouses they swiftly and unsympathetically abandon.

Compared to Amanda and Elyot, their partners seem downright angelic; still, the audience cannot help but root for the divorcees.

As Elyot's young second wife Sybil, Theresa McGuirk is at first enthusiastic, proper, even adorable, but quickly becomes a broken record with annoying, overly-feminine habits. If Elyot had blinded himself to Sybil's deficiencies before their marriage, then post-wedding Sybil effectively rips off the blindfold far too soon in their honeymoon than is wise.

It's not so much that she's sickeningly sweet -- it's that she clearly does not meld well with Elyot.

Victor, too, played by Kevin Grubb, is complimentary and gentlemanly. He exudes intelligence, wealth and even, daresay, commitment. But he isn't Elyot, and for Amanda, as much as she tries to suppress the truth, no substitute will do.

Then there's the incessant questions from their spouses about Amanda and Elyot.

Sybil's inquisition about Elyot's life with Amanda sets the stage for Victor's accusations about Amanda's experience with Elyot, almost verbatim.

Though comedies traditionally feature characters acting worse than they would normally, the symmetry of the unlikely honeymoon conversations from two couples who arrive at the same time each for a honeymoon neither has yet consummated seems a little too absurd.

Still, if you make it through Act One, "Private Lives" is worth it.

Savaiano and Boyer, while convincing and amusing in the first several minutes, shine in the second act, when the real laughter begins.

Beautifully scored mostly with original 1930s French-inspired music by Music Director Steve Przybylski, the show, with set design by Zach Fullenkamp feels authentic and pulls in theatergoers.

Costumes by Caleb Blackwell, architecture and furnishings add depth to settings, and two 10-minute intermissions allow the stage crew to deconstruct the set in a change so elaborate (in the first intermission) that it draws exclamations of awe from those who stay to watch.

Also worth waiting for is fifth cast member Leslie Putnam, who clomps about the stage in platform heels as frustrated French maid Louise. A clear outsider protected from the insanity by the language barrier, Louise comes to represent the audience, reacting appropriately to the inappropriate actions of the others.

"Private Lives" will continue at Wayside Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday. For tickets or more information, call 869-1776.

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