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Kim Cattrall in 'Private Lives': What did the critics think?

November 18, 2011 | 10:26 am

Private 

All of Broadway this week is focused on Kim Cattrall, who is returning to the New York stage after many years in a revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives." The production originated in London last year before traveling to Toronto and now the Music Box Theatre on Broadway.

Cattrall is the main attraction here and it's hard to find reviews that don't mention her most famous role, the sexually empowered Samantha Jones in "Sex and the City." In "Private Lives," Cattrall plays Amanda, an elegant society woman honeymooning in the south of France who discovers that her hotel room is adjacent to that of her ex-husband, Elyot (Paul Gross), who is also vacationing with his new spouse.

"Private Lives" has been regularly revived on Broadway, the most recent production being a 2002 staging starring Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan. Other actors to have essayed the comedy include Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Maggie Smith, Tallulah Bankhead, Gertrude Lawrence and Coward himself.

Richard Eyre directs the production, which co-stars Anna Madeley and Caroline Lena Olsson.

Cattrall has been focusing on her stage craft in recent years, having appeared in a number of British productions including Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" in her birthtown of Liverpool. The last time the actress appeared on Broadway was in a 1986 production of Michael Frayn's "Wild Honey."

How did New York critics react to her big New York comeback?

Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote that the revival "convincingly stakes a claim not only for Ms. Cattrall as a skillfully pliable actress but also for the bubbly pleasures forever on tap" in the play. The actress' Amanda "has a steely sense of self, and it's fun watching Ms. Cattrall morph from pussycat to alley cat and back in the second act."

The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney described Cattrall as "sensational, a leggy blond panther right out of a 1930s screen comedy in her Marcel Wave and soigné glamour-wear. But what's even more gratifying is how gracefully she shakes off the Samantha persona" from "Sex and the City." As Elyot, "Gross is every bit Cattrall's equal... [he] wears his tuxedo and silk lounging pajamas with authority."

Roma Torre of NY1 said that she has seen four revivals of the play through the years "and this is not the best production. But it is a winning one." Cattrall brings a "lustiness to the role that's more typically seen as equal parts fire and ice. The ice melts quickly with Cattrall and what emerges is a somewhat more human and, dare I say, slightly softer Amanda."

USA Today's Elysa Gardner wrote that "director Richard Eyre applies a light, sure hand, and the actors show a similar ease and dexterity. Cattrall's Amanda is adorably feminine, with a breezy, un-self-conscious energy that mitigates the character's narcissism."

David Cote of Time Out NY described the show as intelligent and stylish, but it "misses the necessary balance of musicality and silliness, of brittleness and bluff." Cattrall brings out the "right sort of self-satisfied friskiness [but] Gross unwisely imbues Elyot with an emotionally violent temper, and he tends to vocally trample over Coward's filigree repartee."

RELATED:

'Follies' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

 Samuel L. Jackson in 'The Mountaintop': What did critics think?

'Relatively Speaking' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

--David Ng

Photo: Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross in "Private Lives." Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann / Associated Press

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