Sunday, September 24, 2006

DFL Stuff

Because there isn't much news till the start of Coast of Utopia, here's some stuff on an oldie: Design for Living.

From NY Daily News:
There is a coolness to Jennifer Ehle's Gilda, suggesting that her actions stem from calculation rather than helpless spontaneity.

From Equinox News:
I don't know why more people don't go see straight plays. Everyone's hot for a musical these days and producers of musicals are raking in the big bucks. To the audiences of these million dollar musicals I say "You're missing out." Design for Living, which recently opened at the American Airlines Theatre at 42nd street and Broadway, is not only funny but timely, provocative and delightgful.
The script, written by turn of the century playwright Noel Coward, is both witty and fast-paced and tells the story of a bizarre love triangle. Often we see stories of two men in love with the same woman but rarely is she in love with both men and never do the men also love each other. Alan Cumming (Cabaret) plays Otto, a struggling painter in Paris and the live in boyfriend of Gilda (Jennifer Ehle, Wilde, Pride and Prejudice). The play opens on Ernest (John Cunningham, Titanic), an old friend of trio, visiting Gilda on the eve of Otto's return from a painting sojourn. Gilda expresses feelings of helplessness and being trapped but is vague as to the source. Enter Otto who is warmly welcomed and pleased to hear news that the third of their group, Leo (Dominic West, De La Guarda, A Midsummer Night's Dream), has recently returned from America where his new play is extremely successful. From here, the relationships become twisted, tangled and irrevocably intertwined as we move from Otto's apartment in Paris, to Leo's in London a year and a half later and finally to Ernest's in New York two years after that. In the end, we learn that some things are just meant to be. Says Gilda, "Some things are just too strong to fight."
My highest praises and more should be heaped upon this remarkably talented cast. Cumming is charming, delightful, playful and endearing. West is both brash and sensitive. Ehle emotes the conflict within Gilda to the point of reality. All three are highly comedically talented and fill the show with laughs galore. Honorable mention should be given to Jenny Sterlin (Seagulls) who played Miss Hodge, Leo's flighty housekeeper, with brilliance. If you follow my reviews closely, you may notice a fondness for the set designs of Robert Brill and this show is no different. Brill creates amazing environments in every show. This time he managed to pull off a miniscule apartment with working slanted windows as a ceiling, a lavish apartment full of roses and chandeliers and a modern apartment with working floor-to-ceiling curtains, a spiral staricase of the same height and the fa├žade of a working elevator. Kudos to Brill and his team of designers.
Coward was a playwright far ahead of his time. Design for Living may have been written almost seventy years ago but it translates flawlessly to the new millenium and seems more appropriate for our time than it does for his. This play is heartwarming, genuine and riotously funny. Tickets are hard to come by but well worth it at any price.

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