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"Private Lives is the plum in the pudding this holiday season."

By Mary Hembree, Town Tribune


TheatreWorks New Milford's production of Noel Coward's Private Lives is the plum in the pudding this holiday season. The cast is magnificent, the set is the most creative I've seen, and your face will hurt from laughing as you exuberantly applaud at the end of the show.

Sir Noel Pierce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer known for what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise." On stage since the age of 11, and "rubbing elbows" with high society, he published more than fifty plays from his early teens to his death in March of 1973. It's said that British humor carries with it a strong element of satire aimed at "the absurdity of everyday life." Noel Coward is a master of this genre so evident in Private Lives.

We join Sybil Chase (Anna Fagan) and her new husband Elyot Chase (Jonathan Jacobson) at the beginning of their honeymoon on the terrace of a hotel in France. As luck would have it, Amanda Prynne (Vicki Sosbe) and her new husband Victor Prynne (J. Scott Williams) are in the room across the way. Elyot is Amanda's ex-husband and when they cross paths they realize they still care for one another until the bickering starts again and the laughs begin.

It takes a strong, comedic cast to successfully deliver the humor of Private Lives, which is dialogue rich and physically demanding.

The members of this ensemble are up to the task, with precise timing so essential to this play and British accents that are never overdone. And, there is a delightful aura about these actors reminiscent of Hollywood movie stars of a bygone era.

The nuance of a small part can add just the right spice to any production and Christina Van De Water shows us how that's done in the role of Louise. Her beautiful French lines are flawlessly delivered and her dismay at the state of the apartment she must clean is artfully played and humorous. We too look forward to seeing her in future TheatreWork's productions!

Anna Fagan portrays Sybil Chase as the flighty, young woman she is but she never lets her get silly. Her nasal tone and tendency to hysterics are well played by Ms. Fagan and her command of the glove slap is hilarious. Making her debut at TheatreWorks in the role of Sybil Chase, Ms. Fagan leaves a memorable impression.

Flicking through emotions effortlessly, from adoring new husband, to confusion and indignation to outright fury, J. Scott Williams shows he's the master of great range in his depiction of Victor Prynne. Simply put, this is a terrific performance.
Sophisticated, aloof, a bit of a devil, Elyot Chase could easily be overplayed but not in the capable hands of Jonathan Jacobson. This is a superb performance naturally delivered with just the right touch of zany pomp. Mr.. Jacobson's movements around the stage even in a brawl are debonair. Bravo!

I found Vicki Sosbe mesmerizing in the part of Amanda Prynne. There is grandness about her with indescribable stage presence supported by impeccable delivery that is key to this part. The role of Amanda is fast paced in dialogue and movement and Ms. Sosbe never misses, she's the nucleus of the action and her portrayal of Amanda is exceptional.

When it comes to set design, TheatreWorks never fails to deliver but they have outdone themselves with Private Lives. Opening like a Matryoshka doll, we are transported from the terrace of a hotel in France to Amanda's flat in Paris in such a unique and synchronized way watching it unfold was part of the entertainment. My compliments to Frank Arcaro (and the many builders) for this remarkable set.

And that brings me to the director of this engaging play. Frank Arcaro not only designed the set he made his directorial debut. However, you would never know this is his first time, as he puts it, "in the hot seat." As consummately good as these actors are, there has to be a director who guides them, sees how the words and movements need to flow and masterfully brings that all together. Mr. Arcaro has accomplished that goal in grand, artistic style.

A tip of my hat to Kevin Sosbe for the fight choreography. It's tight and exact yet flows naturally with the scene.

We live in a time of excessive social media where even politicians feel compelled to Tweet opinions on a daily basis. Private Lives is a refreshing step back to the days when the fine art of conversation was the order of the day and being humorous and skillful at it was a blessing. TheatreWorks New Milford's production of Private Lives is sterling from top to bottom, a treasure of talent - cast, director, set and crew. Don't miss it!

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