Ross Valley Players Excel in British Comedy by Noel Coward – Private Lives


This critic attended a matinee performance of Private Lives at The Barn Theater on June 4th.  In the audience, one well-known actor was helping me to my seat.  His name was Barry Kraft.  He is a well-known actor from the Ashland Shakespeare Festival who moved here to perform in the Marin Shakespeare Festival in the summer.

When I took my seat, the last seat in the front row on the left, I was greeted by a lovely set with a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean in the 1930s in France. This excellent set was designed by the Director Ken Rowland and constructed by Eugene DeChristopher. First, we meet a newly married couple, Sibyl (Laura Morgan) and Elyot (Gregory Crane).  While on their honeymoon, from their balcony they discover another couple on an adjoining balcony.  We eventually come to know the other couple, Amanda (LeAnne Rumbel) and Victor (Simon Patton), were the previous spouses of Sibyl and Elyot!

The 2nd Act takes place in Amanda’s flat in Paris.  Several days later Elyot and Amanda reconnect and use their code word “sol locks” to stop an argument they’re having from getting out of hand.  They kiss passionately — but the harmony doesn’t last.  While Elyot and Amanda cannot live without each other, neither can they live with each other.  They argue violently and try to outwit each other just as they had done during their stormy marriage.  Their ongoing argument escalates to a point of fury, as Amanda breaks a record over Elyot’s head, and he retaliates by slapping her face.  They seem to be trapped in a repeating cycle of love and hate as their private passions and jealousies consume them.  At the height of their worst fighting Sibyl and Victor walk into the fray.

The next morning, Amanda tries to sneak away early but is surprised to find Sibyl and Victor there. As they talk, Elyot comes in and starts bickering again with Amanda.  After discussion, it was decided that neither of the new spouses would grant a divorce for a year to give Amanda and Elyot time to confirm whether this is really what they want.  As tempers rise, Sibyl and Victor begin to bicker with each other, defending their respective previous spouses.  Amanda and Elyot realize that Sibyl and Victor are as suited to each other as they are.  They forgive one another, and sneak out, leaving the younger two together.  As Elyot and Amanda tiptoe out, Victor and Sibyl have reached the point of mutual violence!

Thankfully, Amanda’s housekeeper Louise (Susan Stein) does a respectable comic turn, bringing some levity to this hotbed of passions.

I salute Director Ken Rowland‘s outstanding ability to work with this superb cast. Janice Korprowski’s costume designs of the period are fantastic.  Lighting Designer Frank Sarubbi and the Sound Designer Stephen Dietz make excellent contributions to the period-appropriate feel and mood.  The talented production staff includes Fight Choreography designed by Zoe Swenson-Graham.

This critic gives a Thumbs Up for you to attend Private Lives for a time of fun and style.  This wonderful play is produced by Robert Wilson.

Private Lives began May 19 and will run through June 18, 2017. Regular performances are scheduled for Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday 8:00 p.m., Saturday 8:00 p.m., and the final performance at the Sunday Matinee at 2:00 p.m.  For tickets to Private Lives, go online to or call 800/838-9555, and tickets for School Groups, call 415/456-9555 extension 3. All performances take place at The Barn, home of the Ross Valley Players, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross.

Coming up next
will be the 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow and John Buchan from July 14-August 20 and will be directed by Adrian Elfenbaum.

Flora Isaacson