Cooing and cuddling one moment, and cracking records over each other's heads the next, mad ex-spouses Elyot and Amanda are one of theater's most combustible couples.
Frank Delaney and Rebecca Mahar play the passionate twosome with venom and vulnerability in Cyrano's amusingly acidic production of Noel Coward's 1930 play "Private Lives."
The comedy of mostly bad manners revolves around Elyot, Amanda and their new, less-volatile spouses Sibyl and Victor, played by Jay Burns and Stefanie Suydam.
The newlywed couples find themselves in the most sticky of coincidences when they accidentally simultaneously honeymoon at the same fancy French hotel in adjoining rooms. Elyot and Amanda have assured their new loves that they no longer long for each other, but that ends up being false.
Minutes after running into each other at cocktail hour, Elyot and Amanda realize their passion hasn't faded and they very rudely run away together without informing Sibyl and Victor.
In Amanda's Paris pied-a-terre, the delusional divorcees play house and seamlessly transition from perfect harmony to violent hatred. At a performance opening weekend, their well-done upper-crust British accents wonderfully accentuated their bitter banter. The audience hung on every insult.
The two lead actors are excellent at making it appear that they are spontaneously inventing the invective they spit at one another. Mahar is marvelous at turning on the cold snob attitude, and Delaney plays sarcastic cruelty to perfection.
Victor and Sibyl are less showy roles. As Victor, Burns is the practical, kind and understanding man, who is absolutely wrong for spitfire Amanda. It's satisfying to see him finally lose his cool when pushed too far by wisecracking Elyot.
In the role of Sibyl, Elyot's younger wife, Suydam is a flurry of fluttering eyelashes and feminine wiles. She's also smarter than she looks and teases out the laughs when she makes the most of Sibyl's humiliating situation, comically bawling and dramatically throwing herself down on furniture to illustrate her shame.
Director Teresa K. Pond makes the tight, three-act play lively and fun. It may have been written nearly a century ago, but despite the women's material dependence on men and dated chauvinist fighting words like "fishwife" and "slattern," it's very relatable and modern; a template for future rom-coms with spiky scripts.
The deliciously twisted ending confirms that conflict is sometimes the ultimate aphrodisiac.
"PRIVATE LIVES" will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through April 2, at Cyrano's, 413 D St., Anchorage. Tickets are available at centertix.net.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of one of the actresses. The character Amanda is played by Rebecca Mahar.