Lynn McCutchen, senior theatre performance major, has put on one of the best shows I have seen from the Jewell Theatre Company, which should come as no surprise. Having known McCutchen personally for several years now, I can say with certainty that she has some of the most comprehensive knowledge and genuine respect for the art of theatre that I have ever encountered. Let’s go through her show.
For McCutchen’s senior show, which is a requirement to graduate from William Jewell College with a theatre performance degree, she chose to adapt the 1930’s play “Private Lives,” written by Noel Coward. The story begins with two affluent former spouses who happen to run into each other on their respective honeymoons, new spouses in tow. What ensues for the next two hours is pure hilarity: absurd fight scenes intermingled with deadpan comedy.
This play was an ambitious choice, considering that it requires the characters to speak with an elevated, posh British accent. But this proved to be no problem for the cast.
What I was most impressed by was the acting. Not only were the accents spot on, they came so naturally that I was unable to recognize the voices of people—such as McCutchen—who I have known for years. Her counterpart, played by Dylan Welsch, first-year physics major, matched McCutchen both in the technical skill required to pull off a convincing Downton-Abbey-esque accent and in comedic timing. Together, the two of them were able to authentically perform what happens when two self-absorbed egomaniacs attempt a second chance at love.
And while the comedy does stick out to me, primarily because it was so well done, there were a few more serious moments that struck me as well. I’m thinking of moments such as when McCutchen and Welsch laid on the couch together, or sat at the piano, in jarringly tranquil and genuine shows of affection. These do not last for long, of course, as the moments end as soon as they began with biting arguments.
The costumes were executed brilliantly, and McCutchen’s resplendent wardrobe, complete with floor length fur coats and glittery evening gowns, always demanded attention.
I will say in the first act, although the downstage space was fully utilized by having the edge of the stage framed by the railing of a balcony, my eyes could not help but be drawn to the immense amount of black space created by the upstage curtain. I would have wanted something there, such as a prop, to disrupt the void.
In the second act, the set was excellent, accented by beautifully painted marble walls. The entire set and all of the props were used, which was satisfying and evidence of successful and succinct direction.
All in all, it was a splendid show, and I commend McCutchen on her attention to detail and admiration for her craft. The true shame is that it was shown just twice.