Santa Barbara's Ensemble Theatre Company will present Noel Coward's Private Lives in conjunction with the playwright's 100th birthday, June 25-July 25.
The comedy, about a couple who re-discover love five years after their marriage has ended -- and while they are in fact each honeymooning on the French Riviera with new spouses -- has long been considered one of Coward's best works. It is said that the inspiration for the play came to Coward one night in Tokyo -- when in a "vision," actress Gertrude Lawrence (one of Coward's oldest and dearest friends) appeared "in a white Molyneaux dress on a terrace in the South of France and refused to go away until 4 AM, by which time Private Lives, title and all, had constructed itself."
After its initial London outing, Private Lives premiered on Broadway on January 27, 1931, starring Coward and Lawrence as Elyot Chase and Amanda Prynne, with their new spouses Victor and Sibyl played by real-life (at the time) spouses Laurence Olivier and Jill Esmond. A famous -- though critically savaged -- Broadway production of the play during the '82-'83 season featured one-time spouses Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as Amanda and Elyot.
The ETC production will be directed by Artistic Director, Robert Grande Weiss and feature Karin delaPena, Mark Bennington, Elisabeth Adwin, Joseph McNally, and Katherine Enderby.
For tickets ($20-$27), or more information, call (805) 962-8606. -- By Sean McGrath