After a record-breaking season opening, Lantern Theater Company continues its 18th season with the screwball romantic comedy, Private Lives from British playwright Noël Coward, directed by the Lantern's Associate Artistic Director, Kathryn MacMillan. Known for bringing a fresh perspective to classic productions, Private Lives marks the company's first Coward play, bringing the elegance and sophistication of the golden age of Hollywood to the Lantern's stage during the holiday season.
Elyot (Ben Dibble) and Amanda (Geneviève Perrier), once a glamorous and tempestuous couple, haven't seen each other since their divorce five years ago. When they meet by chance on a hotel balcony in Deauville, their passion reignites - even though they are on their honeymoons with other people (Leonard C. Haas and K.O. DelMarcelle).
"Private Lives is wonderful material for the Lantern," says director MacMillan, who helmed the company's critically acclaimed production of Uncle Vanya last season. "Amanda and Elyot swap the sharp repartee for which Coward is justifiably celebrated, but what is sometimes overlooked about Coward's linguistic skill is how it reveals his characters' deepest inner lives, despite themselves. All that great language is driven by their intense desire for one another - and their lack of mutual understanding. To me, the play's sophistication comes not from all the champagne slugging, but from Coward's treatment of the loneliness that exists at the core of so many romantic relationships."
Private Lives runs Dec. 8 - 31, 2011 (press opening: Dec. 14, 7 p.m.). [A full performance schedule follows in the fact sheet below.] Tickets are $20 - $36 and are available online at lanterntheater.org or by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. $10 student rush tickets are available 10 minutes before curtain with valid ID; cash only. Additional discounts are available for seniors and groups of 10 or more. Lantern Theater Company is located at St. Stephen's Theater, 10th & Ludlow Streets in Center City Philadelphia.
An award-winning creative team will create the show's Hollywood glamour, beginning with costumes designed by Mark Mariani, a 2010 Barrymore Award nominee for Outstanding Costume Design. Mariani, whose work was seen at the Lantern in The Breath of Life and Henry IV, Part I says audiences can expect to see "very well-tailored gents and very glamorous ladies. I do my best work with 20th century fashions. I love the details."
Sets are designed by Meghan Jones (Uncle Vanya), with lighting design by Barrymore Award-winner Thom Weaver (The Breath of Life, Uncle Vanya), and sound design by Barrymore Award-winner Christopher Colucci (Vigil, The Breath of Life). Fight Director J. Alex Cordaro (A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Skull in Connemara) will have his hands full with the feisty lovers' battles.
Private Lives has been highly popular since its debut in London in 1930 with a cast including the playwright and Laurence Olivier. The play moved to Broadway the following year and has seen numerous revivals around the world since, attracting actors such as Richard Burton, Alan Rickman, Elizabeth Taylor, Maggie Smith and Kim Cattrall (currently appearing in a Broadway revival). The play was also made into a film in 1931.
The Lantern's cast features some of Philadelphia's most popular and critically praised actors. Barrymore Award-winner Geneviève Perrier (Skylight) brings Amanda to life. Ben Dibble, a recipient of the Barrymore Award for Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist returns to the Lantern stage (seen in La Ronde, The Taming of the Shrew) as Elyot, Amanda's ex-husband turned lover. Leonard C. Haas, lauded for his leading role in last season's Vigil, and K.O. DelMarcelle (recently seen in The Diary of Anne Frank at EgoPo) play Victor and Sybil, the newlyweds scorned by their new spouses. DelMarcelle makes her Lantern debut with this role, while Haas takes a look at the production from a different angle, having played Elyot in the Arden's 1998 production. Jessica Bedford, also in her Lantern debut, corrals the chaos as Amanda's Parisian maid, Louise.
About the Playwright
Sir Noël Peirce Coward (1899-1973) was an English playwright, composer, actor and singer. He published over 50 plays and wrote more than 300 songs in his lifetime, including "Some Day I'll Find You," featured in Private Lives. Coward began performing at the age of 11 and was introduced as a young teenager to the high society about which he often wrote. Many of his most popular plays were written during the Great Depression, including Private Lives in 1930. Coward performed with Gertrude Lawrence as Amanda in the original productions in London and New York. During World War II he worked on behalf of the Secret Service to use his influence in America to encourage British support. Coward continued to produce work after the war, including a cabaret act in Las Vegas and three television specials for CBS. He was knighted in 1969 and became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He died in 1973, and though he was buried in Jamaica, there is a memorial stone in his honor in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.