Private Lives

Aumsville Community Theatre provides a fun night out with Noël Coward’s classic Private Lives, directed by Beverly Wilson in ACT’s intimate Little Red Schoolhouse in Stayton.

Written in 1930, Private Lives is an early twentieth century comedy of manners. (You can tell by the smoking, the English colonialism, and the casual approach to domestic violence.) The story follows Amanda and Elyot—once married, now divorced, and each has remarried a younger lover. However, on the eve their new honeymoons, the divorcés find themselves sharing an adjoining balcony. Sparks fly in every possible direction as romance and arguments are kindled and re-kindled. The play is a mix of romance and wit, although mostly wit. Can two people fall in love without also fighting? The play supposes not.

Linda Cashin leads the cast as Amanda, who lands some of Coward’s best lines. Due to the illness of the male lead, the role of Elyot was taken over by Josh Baumgartner playing with script in hand. The script was barely noticeable, and Baumgartner turned in a strong performance despite stepping into the role at the last minute. However, one wonders what the play would have looked like otherwise.

All four actors used English accents, which, given the decidedly British nature of the humor, seems essential; however, the accents added a layer of affectedness that put a barrier between the actors. Elegant costumes added color and glamour, and the set change from England to Paris was impressive for such a small space.

The evening I went had a small, but appreciative house. It was a relaxed, informal evening among friends. Private Lives plays through March 5.

The Open House

The Verona Studio stays true to its mission of putting on bold and challenging theatre with Will Eno’s The Open House, directed by Loriann Schmidt.

The play showcases the turmoil of a broken family. The Father—once domineering, now a victim of stroke—still holds his family in thrall with verbal abuse. The Mother, while passive-aggressive, is equally as manipulative as the Father. The children and uncle each have their own issues. The play is much funnier than it sounds. In fact, act one is almost absurdist in its treatment of this most common of theatrical tropes; it is a parody of American domestic drama. Act two turns the trope completely on its head, but I hate to ruin a surprise—you’ll have to see for yourself.

Acting is strong throughout the cast. I had not seen Bob Olin (the Father) on stage since Verona’s very first production, Lonesome Hollow. It was a joy to see him return here as the irascible Father. The rest of the cast is equally captivating, and each actor is able to show his or her range through the course of the evening.

My one complaint is that the tempo of act one is deliberately slow. I know why they made this choice (it pays off later), but to be honest, my mind wandered. Act two provides plenty for the mind to chew on and discuss later.

The Open House is an odd little play, but I happen to like odd little plays. It is certainly worth your time. The Open House plays through March 4.