Sunday, August 12, 2007

Private Lives

I think the highlight of our weekend was attending Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” at the Guthrie Theater.

I had never seen “Private Lives” before. Andrew had seen a performance of the play once before, because the Guthrie Theater had staged the play back in the 1990’s. Andrew’s parents had seen “Private Lives” twice before. They had seen the 1990’s Guthrie staging and they also had seen a production starring Maggie Smith in the 1970’s in Chicago.

I thought the play was enjoyable and sort of fun. It was, however, perfectly predictable. It was apparent, three minutes into the first act, exactly what would happen and exactly how things would turn out by the final curtain. The lines were sometimes good and sometimes not. Coward was not quite as clever and not quite as witty as his reputation.

Naturally, the play is dated. It is very, very 1930, it is very, very British, it is very, very class-conscious and it is very, very artificial. It was also sort of slow-moving. “Private Lives” probably is a good example of the three-act “well-made play” of the time, and probably the only surviving example, but it is no masterpiece of world drama.

For the play to work, I think the audience must fall in love with Amanda and Elyot. I also think the audience must believe that the actors portraying Amanda and Elyot are genuine upper-class British people from the 1930’s, narrow in their outlooks, wrapped up in their own personal concerns, but also completely charming if not fatally irresistible.

The Guthrie actors were capable, but they did not convince me that they were British and they did not convince me that they were from the 1930’s and they did not convince me that they were from the upper class. They certainly were not charming or irresistible.

“Private Lives” calls out for stars and there may be no stars today of the right type that could bring this piece of fluff to life. I can’t think of any contemporary actors who would be obvious candidates to cast in this play to make it work.

Andrew’s parents said that Maggie Smith had been a completely captivating Amanda and that the play flew by in a flash with her in the lead. They said that they couldn’t take their eyes off her for the entire performance. However, they also said that she horribly overplayed everything, wringing every possible laugh from the material, and that her performance verged on caricature.

I’m glad we saw the play, but I would not rush out to see it again anytime soon.

The Guthrie stage design was extremely elaborate and very beautiful. The setting almost overshadowed the acting ensemble.

Andrew and I didn’t do anything else notable this weekend. Today we attended a family function. Last night and tonight, we got Andrew’s brother’s gear ready for London. The weekend flew by before we knew it.

I only have two more weeks of work at my current job. My last day at the bookstore will be Friday, August 24.

In the middle of September, I will start work, full-time, at a law firm downtown. I will be an administrative assistant, and my work will involve data entry, word processing, document storage and retrieval, filing and whatever else I am assigned to do.

It is a real job, with real pay and real benefits. I plan to work there for a year before I enroll in law school.

My first day will be the Monday following our return from London.

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