Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Silver Spring Stage Private Lives

By • Sep 28th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Private Lives by Noel Coward
Silver Spring Stage
Silver Spring Stage at Woodmoor Shopping Center, Silver Spring, MD
Through October 10th
2:10 with two intermissions
$20/$18 Seniors and Juniors
Reviewed September 26th, 2010

Private Lives is a comedy by Noel Coward. Two newly remarried couples set out on their honeymoon only to discover their ex-spouses are in the adjacent hotel room. Old flames are rekindled as well as the old fire that never went out.

Sybil Chase, newly married to Elyot, was played by Raven Bonniwell. Bonniwell had a young innocence about her as well as a whininess that made it difficult to see what Elyot saw in her. Her pouty over the top emotions in the opening act were believable. Her husband Elyot Chase was played by John Stange. Stange was the typical Brit, but seemed too reserved during his scenes with Sybil in Act I and his fight and love scenes with ex-wife Amanda. Amanda was played by Heather Benjamin. Her comfort with Stange was evident during their scenes together, especially during Act II as they alternated fighting and loving one another. Unfortunately, their fight scenes were perhaps too rehearsed. It was almost a slow motion effect and with that much anger between the two former lovers, it just did not look realistic. The last of the foursome was Victor Prynne played by David Flinn. In his manners and feelings he seemed to genuinely care for Amanda and was quite stupefied when she took off with Elyot. He carried himself with an easygoing nature and seemed to have a positive outlook on life. He let his emotions out more than Stange. Louise the French maid was played by Emmeline Conway. Her uncertainty about the people in the living room was unmistakable.

Andrew Greenleaf’s set for Private Lives was well done. During the first intermission it was fascinating to watch the running crew set the stage for Act II. There were a couple problems with Matt Vossekuil’s lighting. There were two instruments in the second and third acts that were placed upstage, facing the audience, resulting in bright lights shining in the audience’s eyes. There was also one instrument hanging over the house left side, near the lighting booth, that was either aimed incorrrectly (maybe it slipped?) but it appeared to be lighting the house right seating area. Roddy Rasti’s sound design was a too loud, it was difficult to hear the actors in the opening act over the background music. At times, the sound effects weren’t in sync with the dialogue. For example, the line “the music stopped, andyou can hear the sea.” was not accompanied by sounds of the sea. And a few minutes later, Amanda says “…with the music playing.” But again, there wasn’t any music. Everyone kept their accents throughout the performance.

Be awawre that Private Lives contains adult situations and humor. Overall, the subtle humor of the first act during the setup of the couple’s lives and the tension of how will Amanda and Elyot fight in the second and third acts led to a satisfying show.

Directors’ Note

“I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives. It all depends on a combination of circumstances. If all the cosmic thingummys fuse at the same moment, and the right spark is struck, there’s no knowing what one mightn’t do.”

Told with brushstrokes of realism and far more hilarity, Private Lives is a precursor to modern day dramas like Closer and Dinner with Friends – an unveiling look inside a normally closed door. Tinged with high emotion and moments you might recognize, Amanda and Elyot attempt to re-design their relationship and formulate it to fit their current, presumably more mature, notions of love and marriage. Whether or not they succeed is up for debate. The seemingly endless arguments followed by near violent passion would indicate they may never have a traditional functioning relationship, but in their day and age they are, much like us, attempting to redefine more archaic notions of lifelong partnerships. We’d like to think they keep coming back to each other for a long lifetime and maybe after a while, finally figure it out. Coward lets them furtively escape from the new reality of Sibyl and Victor (twice!) and therefore, gives us reason to hope for their longevity as a couple.

Private Lives is one of the better known Comedies of Manners. The reason for these manners and the underlying tension that exists in trying to keep them up have our characters tightly wound throughout the play. We see them in several manifestations – as Sibyl sobs uncontrollably against a poor bewildered and exhausted Victor, as Victor and Amanda awkwardly embrace the first night of their honeymoon, and in the restraint Amanda and Elyot initially employ so as not to show a semblance of the immediate and burning desire they both feel for one another. The fun of the play comes when we get that peek inside and see what happens when the manners (along with reason and logic) are finally (and let’s face it, thankfully) tossed aside. When people are allowed to freely speak and be themselves do we like them more or less? Why are these darned “rules” so important in the first place? What are the constraints? What are the liberties? When is it appropriate to let your guard down? The characters and the world Noel Coward created for himself and his friends allow a playful exploration of all these questions. But don’t be fooled, these are serious inquiries and situations. Comedy is, after all, just drama separated by time and distance. The good news is, nothing is ever too serious. In a few years’ time, Sibyl and Victor will get together for a coffee and have a jolly good laugh at themselves, won’t they?

Enjoy! Ty Hallmark & Stephanie Svec, Directors


  • Sybil Chase: Raven Bonniwell
  • Elyot Chase: John Stange
  • Amanda Prynne: Heather Benjamin
  • Victor Prynne: David Flinn
  • Louise: Emmeline Conway


  • Producers: Jacy D’Aiutolo & David Dubov
  • Directors: Ty Hallmark & Stephanie Svec
  • Stage Manager: Pam Burks
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Emily Todd
  • Set Designer: Andrew Greenleaf
  • Master Carpenter: Ken Lee
  • Assisted by: Jonathan Baker, Felicity Brown, Jacy D’Aiutolo, Sara Daniel, David Dubov, Sean Eustis, Pat Miller
  • Set Painter: Andrew Greenleaf
  • Paint crew:: Jacy D’Aiutolo, Mary Dalto, David Dubov
  • Don Lee, Whitney Moore, Mary Seng, Bob Thompson
  • Set Decorator: Andrew Greenleaf
  • Properties Designer & Set Dressing: Mary Dalto
  • Lighting Designer: Matt Vossekuil
  • Sound Designer: Roddy Rasti
  • Running Crew: Caroline Duffy, Nicole Jaja, Kevin O’Connell
  • Costumer: Heather C. Jackson
  • Costuming Assistant: Wendy AFB Stengel
  • Choreographer: Jennifer Crooks
  • Make-up & Hair Designer: The Cast

Disclaimer: Silver Spring Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

Tagged as: ,

This article can be linked to as:

One Response »

  1. Sean Eustis was regrettably omitted from the Set Building Crew in the printing of the program. We appreciate his assistance and apologize for the error.