Venue Details

4.6 / 5 Rated by 96 members
Review from Laura Tashjian Whalen

Excellent production of a classic comedy. Snappy, witty and brilliantly staged, the production creates a fresh perspective on a much produced Coward gem. Watching the terribly efficient stage crew tranform the set from the hotel terrace to the...continued

reviewed Jan 30 2010 report as inappropriate
Review from Zac

I love me some Tracy Michelle Arnold (lead actress in photo) and wanted Gary Griffin to prove he's not a naked emperor. Not this time around. I recognize I saw only the 3rd preview, but the troubles with this production are at the most basic level...continued

reviewed Jan 08 2010 report as inappropriate
Review from Arnold Ginsburg

We thought some of the lines were difficult to hear. The acting was excellant. Maybe should not be staged in the round. The intermissions were too long.

reviewed Jan 07 2010 report as inappropriate
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Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) continues the 2009/10 Subscription Series in the new year with Private Lives, a revelation of the humorous complications of marriage penned by master playwright Noël Coward. The production will be staged by CST Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin following his celebrated production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus in 2008. The first-class creative team includes Scenic Designer Neil Patel and Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel who are designing an intimate, in-the-round performance space. They are joined by Paul Tazewell, who is designing costumes.

Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin has long been enamored with Noël Coward, comparing his language and the challenge of performing it to that of Shakespeare’s. “Acting Coward is hard. He requires not just good actors, but actors who are verbally and intellectually facile,” says Griffin. “I remember reading Private Lives in college, but the first time I saw it performed was with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor at the Shubert Theater in Chicago. The play is Coward at the top of his game in terms of wit, intelligence and the sparkle of the language. But it’s also Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf turned around, where humor makes it forgiving: two people who are a nightmare together and yet are also the perfect mates.”

Long associated with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Griffin has emerged as an acclaimed director with credits ranging from Broadway to London. During his 10-year career at CST, he has directed numerous award-winning productions including Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George and Pacific Overtures—a production Chicago Shakespeare later transferred to Donmar Warehouse in London’s West End, where it garnered three Olivier Awards, including Outstanding Musical Production. On Broadway he directed the Tony Award-nominated productions of The Color Purple and The Apple Tree; Off Broadway he directed the world premiere musical Saved, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Beautiful Thing. Griffin has worked extensively in Chicago at Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, The Marriott Theatre and Drury Lane Oakbrook. He has received eight Joseph Jefferson Awards for directing. In December, Mr. Griffin makes his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut, directing a new production of The Merry Widow.

For Private Lives, Griffin is working with a first-class creative team, who will reconfigure Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater with the addition of main floor seating on the proscenium stage itself, creating a theater-in-the-round. “The decision to do Private Lives came out of the artistic team’s discussions about plays that would lend themselves to our theater specifically and its intimate space,” says Griffin. “There is nothing presentational about this piece at all. We are all voyeurs to its intimacy. That’s what I think Coward was interested in exploring.”

The design team includes Scenic Designer Neil Patel and Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel, who recently worked together on CST’s production of Richard III and the Jeff Award-winning production of The Comedy of Errors. In addition to his work with CST that includes The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice and Pacific Overtures, Patel has worked extensively on Broadway designing productions such as [title of show], Ring of Fire and ‘Night Mother, and in regional theaters throughout the country. Wierzel, also a CST veteran with credits including The Merchant of Venice and The Tempest has Broadway credits that include the new musical Fela! directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, and David Copperfield’s Dreams and Nightmares with other work in theaters across the country. Designing the costumes for Private Lives is Paul Tazewell, who has worked on a number of Broadway shows, including Gary Griffin’s production of The Color Purple. He received a Joseph Jefferson Award in 2000 for his costume designs for CST’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Joe Dowling. The production team for Private Lives is rounded out by Sound Designers Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen; Wig and Makeup Designer Melissa Veal; Properties Master Chelsea Meyers and Fight Choreographer Chuck Coly.

Returning to Chicago Shakespeare after his Joseph Jefferson Award-nominated performance as Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus last season, Robert Sella performs the role of Elyot, a high-society divorcé newly married to Sybil, performed by Chaon Cross, whose CST credits include Cymbeline, Troilus and Cressida and The Taming of the Shrew. Honeymooning with his new bride, Elyot notices his ex-wife, Amanda, performed by Tracy Michelle Arnold who holds numerous Chicago credits at Writers’ Theatre, Steppenwolf and Northlight Theatre, and now makes her Chicago Shakespeare debut. Amanda, Elyot soon learns, is also there honeymooning with her new husband Victor, played by Tim Campbell. Mr. Campbell also makes his CST debut, with regional credits including Tarragon Theatre, Old Globe Theatre, Birdland Theatre and ACT. The French Maid Louise is performed by Lesley Bevan, who returns to CST after her Jeff Award-nominated performance as Emilia in Othello, appears as a subtle reminder that the lives of the two couples are not as private as they might imagine them to be.

Noël Coward is considered to be one of England’s most sophisticated humorists, having written over 50 plays produced in Britain and on Broadway. Private Lives was an overwhelming critical and commercial success when it first premiered in London with Gertrude Lawrence as Amanda, Adrianne Allen as Sybil, Laurence Olivier as Victor and Coward as Elyot. A Broadway production followed in 1931, and the play has since had numerous revivals in London’s West End and on Broadway.

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