Private Lives On Display

In this fresh take on Noël Coward's iconic 1930 comedy Private Lives, antics and dramatics ensue when two sets of spouses cross paths during their honeymoons.

Your Chicago Guide’s tickets for two to the press viewing of Private Lives courtesy of Raven Theatre.

Chicago’s newest Equity-affiliated theatre, Raven Theatre has opened its 40th Anniversary season with a brand new interpretation of Noël Coward’s classic, Private Lives. The production is directed by Ian Frank, and is playing through November 13, 2022.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow.

In this sophisticated and wildly entertaining revival, once-married Elyot and Amanda cross paths on their unexpectedly adjoined honeymoons – same hotel, same resentments, but with new spouses. Sharp words evolve into fresh sparks, followed by an endless roundabout of chaos and romance where enemies become lovers and lovers become fools. This timeless, witty and risqué play follows the ups, downs and all-arounds of passion and betrayal. Are they in it for love… or just for the thrill of it all?

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow.

Director Ian Frank says: “The affair is easy. The marriage is hard. It’s especially hard when you learn that there is only one person in the entire world to whom you can reveal your true and vulnerable self, your private life. Perfect love wrestles with imperfect human nature and the result is this intimate comedy, as its author called it. The more I read about Noël Coward, the more Private Lives began to reveal its own true and vulnerable self. To me, it’s a play about masks and the courage it takes to remove them as the ultimate act of affection. That so many productions of this play are seduced by the witty banter and effortless glamor entirely misses Coward’s criticism of that easy facade. Instead, I’m hoping to dig underneath this text and tell a story about two people struggling to figure out how to honestly and completely love each other. What could be funnier than that?”

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow.

Private Lives is not quite the sleek comedy of manners that it appears. It is most definitely funny in a spiky way, as the characters spar in witty dialogue while parading around in dinner jackets and exquisite gowns. But for all the play’s effervescence, the central relationship – between Amanda and Elyot – is one of dysfunctional dependency.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow.

They can’t live with each other; they can’t live without each other. Their version of hell is not just other people (in particular, the new unsuitable spouses – the anally retentive Victor and insipid Sibyl). It is each other, too. The pair are doomed to constantly repeat the past. Forever splitting up and then running away again together, they leave chaos and disaster behind them like two naughty children. It is no laughing matter. Ian Frank seeks to strike a balance between the play’s comedy and its savagery. What to do with the darkness at the heart of Private Lives is left to the viewers’ choice.

Private Lives is now playing at Raven Theatre East Stage, 6157 N. Clark Street, in Chicago North Side’s Edgewater neighborhood.

Tickets are available at or by calling (773)338-2177.