Photo by Maggie Liuzzi
SUDS’ latest venture into thespian romance, Design for Living, is beautiful, messy and utterly hilarious. Directed by Eugene Lynch and assistant directed by Nadia Bracegirdle, the play draws one into a delightfully polyamorous world of the 1930’s, replete with period décor, and endless amounts of satin. A cozy, artiste-chic set brings Noël Coward’s comedic masterpiece to life, as the audience is thrust into the midst of heartbreak and glamour.
The strength of Design for Living lies in its three devilishly debonair protagonists. Caitlin Williams shines as Gilda, a modern woman draped in satin and furs, with an almost otherworldly charm and a bitter sense of humor. Otto and Leo, her comically queer lovers, come to life in the hands of Oliver Ayres and Max Peacock as they both vie for her fickle affections with Vaudeville-esque humor.
But for all its charm and hilarity, the production has its moments of poor taste. The directorial choice to cast Miss Hodge (Victoria Boult) as a modern caricature of the ‘unstable woman,’ with her running makeup and two divorcees fell an inch too close to modern day misogyny for comfort. Gas-lighting and crude jokes that could be waved away with period costuming and British accents no longer sound so blasé when spoken in an Aussie accent. Whilst at times minor characters and pop music detract from the narrative, the trio’s sensual chemistry as they navigate a lopsided romance in the modern world allows one to look beyond these flaws.
In attempt to articulate the way I feel about the play, I turn to the words of the characters themselves. My appreciation of it is “not a dashing, bohemian gesture” in defiance of thespian monogamy. Rather, the magic of Design for Living lies within the character’s revelation- that a life led conventionally might be simpler, but it is far less true.