Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
California Shakespeare is currently performing Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES.
Director Mark Rucker has created a marvel: this production is nothing short of simply smashing: this show is tasteful sophisticated comedy at its finest.
You can drive your lumbering RV north to Point Barrow or south to San Isidro and you will not find a funnier, more elegant, more sophisticated comedy this side of London's West End.
Unless you are an elitist, having an affair with a theatre snob, an acolyte to the freeway culture or just want to leave a giagonzo carbon footprint, why risk your life and the climate by driving to Ashland?
Save the ice caps: drive to Orinda.
Pretense and affectation aside: Diana Lamar is simply smashing as Amanda Prynne: a woman who has the sense and confidence enough to stop pretending, abandon convention and hypocrisy, and just go for the real thing as Tom Stoppard would call say.
Miss Lamar slips into the role of leisure class decadence and cosmopolitan savoir-faire, and sips a martini like British royalty.
Stephen Barker Turner is simply smashing as Elyot Chase: a man who takes laps around the planet when his life is in turmoil and takes laps to the brandy decanter when things are going his way.
Thanks to Lynne Soffer, the dialect and text coach, Mister Turner speaks with a manicured and clipped Eaton accent: sparing beautifully with his equal: Miss Lamar; their duet convinces the audience that heated passion, mad romance and unbridled propinquity could well be the closest we get to the ideal of love.
Costuming by Katherine Roth is marvelously attentive to detail; she should be particularly commended for Mister Turner's natty apparel and Miss Lamar's chic elegance.
By contrast, Miss Roth rightly dresses Sibyl (played by Sarah Nealis) in frou-frou dowdiness and Victor (played by Jud Williford) in sartorial blandness: strongly reinforcing each of their characters with the subtlety costume.
For an evening of refinement and laughter, this show is your ticket.
Performances, in the enchanting Bruns Memorial Amphitheatre, run through August 2.
PRIVATE LIVES will transport you from the dreadful dross of the recession to the crisp, stylish elegance of Noel Coward.
For more information call the box office at 510.548.9666 or surf over to . . .
Enjoy the show.