By Kenneth Jones
06 Dec 2011
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
He's opposite the Amanda of Kim Cattrall, having joined the Richard Eyre-directed production for its North American life (Toronto, and now Broadway's Music Box) following a London run in 2010, where Matthew Macfadyen played one half of a divorced couple who meet on adjoining balconies while on fresh honeymoons with new spouses. Noel Coward's sophisticated 1930 light comedy with dark patches stretches new muscles for the actor who also starred as a Canadian Mountie in the TV series "Due South" and as the Devil in TV's short-lived "Eastwick." But after playing Hamlet at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, can Coward really be a workout?
One of the strengths of Private Lives is that you keep wondering if Amanda and Elyot will be together in the end. I've seen the play many times, but it always keeps me guessing.
Paul Gross: It's quite brilliantly constructed, isn't it? I think it's one of those plays — the more you do it, the more I start to think there's almost nothing in here I think isn't absolutely on-the-nose and kind of perfect.
PG: No, I never have. I never had any particular feeling for him one way or the other. I've seen various productions, and I'd seen a production of Private Lives a number of years ago and I liked it — it was very funny — but it didn't kind of mean anything to me. But it was really in longer conversations with Richard Eyre, initially, that he persuaded me to go and read it again, as if I didn't know anything about Coward. I think he's one of those playwrights that had a kind of — there was a style that accompanied all of his productions — in the way that, for a period of time, there was a "style" of Chekhov. You had to go through that [period] until you got other people or new people looking at it and thinking, "Wait a minute, there's more going on in this play than perhaps we thought."
It's not all rolling R's.
PG: Correct, yes. [Laughs.] And, they're not only in tuxedos.
There's blood pumping underneath.
PG: Yeah. It's kind of a funny balance. The nature of the play is such that you can kind of drift into broader, coarser farce, and because he's pound-for-pound, unbelievably f--king funny, you can stand every line to get a reaction. But we found that one of the key things is…you have to step on certain laughs to try to get to the point of the section. And, of course, an audience howling at material is like crack cocaine for actors —they just can't not lean into it.