The flagship of this year's CowardFest celebrations was Royal MTC's glittering production of Private Lives, Coward's spicy tale of love and marriage. Krista Jackson, assisted by Rodrigo Beilfuss, directs a visually sumptuous production, each moment filled with beautiful physical work from the company. All 4 performers handle the dry wit and clipped society accents with aplomb. Eric Blais, however stands out, looking and sounding completely at ease within the period. Another particular stand-out was Jane Testar, as the grumpy cold-ridden French maid in the third act, who brings a whimsy to the play.
The production moves along nicely, and featured the singing talents of the two female leads favourably. What is, on the surface, a frothy bit of fun, bubbles beneath with a sinister tone, particularly in Amanda & Elyot's fights, hilariously staged, as they run around, smashing one another with gramophone records. Laura Olafson's Amanda is in no way the frail woman; what might have come across as misogyny is instead two equals warring with one another.
That said, the relationships feel dated in this play, and it is difficult to make these feel anything but a caricature to a younger audience. True enough, the majority of the house was filled with older patrons, who laughed and enjoyed. I wonder whether the commentary on the relationship was too subtle; where the play could benefit from a Mad Men style comment from within the period, we had silliness and fun, but with not a quite sufficient amount of the dark undertones to truly make the text relevant today.