Uncork the bubbly -- director Anne Bogart is returning to Actors' Theatre of Louisville to direct Noel Coward's Private Lives, which opens on New Year's Day.
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 Louisville cast includes Ellen Lauren as Amanda, Jefferson Mays as Elyot, Karenjune Sanchez as Sibyl and Stephen Webber as Victor; all are members of Bogart's Saratoga (NY) International Theatre Institute. In addition, Adale O'Brien, a long-time member of ATL's resident acting company, plays the maid, Louise; this will mark O'Brien's 200th production with ATL.
Bogart, an associate professor at Columbia University, has won two Obie Awards and a Bessie Award. Her directing assignments have included Hot 'n' Throbbing at American Rep, Marathon Dancing at En Garde Arts and Paula Vogel's Baltimore Waltz at the now defunct Circle Repertory Theatre in New York. She has directed a several plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville including Miss Julie, The Adding Machine and Picnic, as well as the the 1991 world premiere of Eduardo Machado's In the Eye of the Hurricane. In addition, a salute to Bogart was held in 1995 as part of ATL's annual Brown-Forman Classics in Context Festival.
Private Lives is scheduled to run through Jan. 24 at ATL's Pamela Brown Auditorium. For tickets, call (502) 584-1205 or see ATL's web site at www.actorstheatre.org.