The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday May 16th

‘Private Lives’ gives of glamour

With an intimate stage setting and hilariously honest characters, PlayMakers Repertory Company’s “Private Lives” transported audience members back to the glamorous 1930s.

The love affairs of the play’s protagonists, though, were anything but glamorous.

Private Lives

Time: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays until Feb. 9
Location: Paul Green Theatre

The play, which is set in a hotel on the French Riviera, followed respective newlyweds Sibyl and Elyot, and Amanda and Victor. When the two couples end up in adjacent honeymoon suites to the horror of divorcees Elyot and Amanda, chaos ensued and dragged a willing audience with it.

The low platform stage was almost level with audience seating in the Paul Green Theatre, which placed viewers nearly within the scene and the conflict of rekindled lovers Elyot and Amanda.

For some audience members, proximity was heightened with PlayMakers’ Cafe Society seating, which, for an extra cost, placed them at cafe tables around the stage, complete with mocktails, appetizers, coffee and dessert.

The simple, yet elegant stage featured an intricate chandelier, large gold columns and a grand piano with live music to mimic a 1930s club.

Though an effective and realistic set, it was the performances of Jeffrey Blair Cornell and Julie Fishell as Elyot and Amanda that engaged the audience and held its attention and laughter until the end.

Fishell’s performance as the free spirited and capricious Amanda was particularly compelling. She gave audience members a completely eccentric and entertaining character — arguably the funniest of them all — but also a believable one.

Cornell’s sharp and snark Elyot was Amanda’s perfect counterpart, and Fishell and Cornell flawlessly painted a picture of a couple almost too in love for their own good.

The abandoned spouses, played by Tom Coiner and Kristen Mengelkoch, added even more layers to the already rampant love conflict and repeatedly forced the audience to question which character should be with whom.

Fury, rage, shock, lust — and above all, love — culminated in the ludicrous and wild fight scene between Elyot and Amanda in her apartment in Paris. Flowers and pillow feathers were flying, and while the audience was roaring at the scene, there was an inescapable sympathy to be felt for the lovers’ frustration.

In typical PlayMakers fashion, old tales and old faces brought the audience to a time long past. But through spot-on performances by each of the actors, the audience was able to connect with ideas that still plague us today, and explore different definitions of happiness and love through the different people who try to seek them.

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