Culbreth Presents Private Lives directed by Jan Mason
By Stephen Davis
Noel Coward’s elegant and witty comedy does something the great William Shakespeare always did – deliver truths to the audience. But unlike Shakespeare, Coward’s messages are subtle and stylish, entertaining and engaging.
Under the direction of the U.Va. Drama Department, Coward’s piece comes to life like never before, catering to both theatre aficionados and students who couldn’t tell you where the drama building is located, which I admit, I once was.
Private Lives, written in 1930, weaves together the tale of two divorcees, Elyot and Amanda, who reunite on their respective honeymoons, which just happen to be on the same weekend in the same adjacent hotel suites. Eloquently performed by Adam Segaller and Heather Mayes, the two reawaken their lost love for each other, abandoning their newly acquired spouses, Sybil (Molly Beilhart) and Victor (Matthew Fletcher) to be with each other.
What ensues, as Mayes puts it, is “a journey of life.” The play also provides the audience with laughs galore. “Dysfunctional, everybody’s life is just like this,” Mayes says.
What makes this production so special is the assembly of top-notch talent. At the top is director Jan Mason, a third-year Master of Fine Arts student in U.Va.’s directing program. She has been in charge of two Culbreth productions and two more in the Helms Theatre. Adam calls her an “actor’s director,” as she allows the actors to invent and mold their characters.
But a production is more than just the actors on stage, as the people behind the scenes are instrumental in making a play come to life. Third-year student June Suepunpuck, a first-time costume designer, crafted perfect costumes to help capture the style, elegance and magnificence of the 1930’s.
“This was an amazing experience,” she said. “To see my drawings and designs come to life is surreal.”
Stage Manager Erin Hall, along with her assistants Brin Lukens and Laura Nelson, help organize any and every little detail, including stage positions, lights and even pre-rehearsal dinner. Erin said, “thousands and thousands of man-hours” go into putting on a production, as design meetings and auditions were held in April of this year and rehearsal began the Monday before classes.
Putting on a performance is a monumental task, as it includes coordinating between 30 and 40 students for numerous tasks, meetings, rehearsals and production time amounting to upward of five hours a day, six days a week. But as Matthews said, The time… it’s worth every second.”
Accent practice, fight choreography, blocking and rehearsal are all vital elements to Private Lives. This is not just a typical college play, as the production has a real budget and the cast and crew strive for sheer excellence. Combine that with a cast who likes and supports one another, and you have the essentials for a special production.
Private Lives will show October 6-8 and 13-16 in the Culbreth Theatre at 8pm. Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students. Full time students can use their Arts$ to see the performance.
Whether you are a drama major, theatre lover, or just a guy looking for an excellent date opportunity, Private Lives offers something for everyone. As the director says in her notes, “We recognize ourselves in Coward’s characters; he allows us to laugh at their foibles, and in turn we can laugh at our own shortcomings.”
Spending time with the cast and crew allowed me to see how much effort, time and hard work has gone into this play. Go see it for yourself. I guarantee you’re in for a great time and some hearty laughs.
Heather Mayes and Adam Segaller
They don't taste good but they do analyze website traffic. By accepting these cookies, your data will be aggregated with all other user data. Thank you.