Last chance to catch one of the most famous set-ups in all theatre comedy: two honeymooning couples in adjoining hotel suites discover that their exes are right next door. The play, of course, is Noel Coward's Private Lives, and the latest production finishes its run Feb. 8 at CA's South Coast Repertory, after starting previews Jan. 2 and opening Jan. 9.
The comedy, about a couple who rediscover love five years after their marriage has ended, 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.
At South Coast Rep, Elyot and Amanda are played by Alistair Duncan and Lynnda [sic] Ferguson (Bring Back Birdie). Also in the cast are Francois Giroday (Monday After The Miracle), Cindy Katz (a Guthrie Theatre veteran) and Martha McFarland as Sybil.
Designing Private Lives are Ralph Funicello (sets), Susan Denison Geller (costumes), Peter Maradudin (lighting) and B.C. Keller (sound). SCR artistic associate David Chambers directs. His Broadway directing credits include A History Of The American Film and Search And Destroy. For tickets ($18-$43) and information on Private Lives at South Coast Rep, 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, call (714) 708-5555.