Muskoka To-DAILY

Dragonfly presents Noel Coward’s comedy Private Lives, best of summer stock dinner theatre, at Quality Inn Aug. 2-12

Mark Clairmont |

BRACEBRIDGE — Dragofly Theatre is the best of summer stock.

A permanent company with many of the same actors, sets and props done on the cheap.

Bill Holden, the Davis’ and Straw Hat Players imported the concept to Muskoka from the northeastern U.S. in 1934.

Here in Bala, Port Carling and eventually Gravenhurst it was a hit.

Summer audiences loved the intimacy of the small venues, the casts they would constantly run into on the streets during the day between plays week after week.

But it was at night when the magic took over the dark and the stage was their NetFlix.

It was a formula that worked and lasted decades with much success.

Take a great play familiar to all (usually a comedy), recruit local actors who have been pounding the boards off King Street for years and sit them down to dinner.

DSCF7493Director Pru Donaldson does the same with Noel Coward’s “Private Lives,” a three-act play comedy with a risqué second act that Coward himself once played the leading role in.

It’s on Wednesday to Saturday Aug. 2-5 and Aug. 10-12 at the Quality Inn in Bracebridge, with dinner before the theatre presented by chef David Friesen.

This is the fourth Coward play Dragonfly has produced and it is his most beloved and popular play, Donaldson says.

Elyot and Amanda, once married and now honeymooning with new, younger spouses — at the same hotel — meet by chance and reignite their old spark.

What are the chances of that? And the hilarious consequences.

Think of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who both played the parts.

“Private Lives,” set in Paris in the 1930s, tells the story of two people who can’t live apart, and have a difficult time living together.

Sound familiar?

“We were too ridiculously over in love,” says Elyot.

David Walton (Elyot) and Emma Phillips (Amanda) play newly weds and divorcees in Noel Coward's comedy 'Private Lives', on at the Quality Inn in Bracebridge starting next Wednesday for two weeks.

David Walton (Elyot) and Emma Phillips (Amanda) play newly weds and divorcees in Noel Coward’s comedy ‘Private Lives’, on at the Quality Inn in Bracebridge starting next Wednesday for two weeks.

To which Amanda replies: “Selfishness, cruelty hatred, possessiveness, petty jealousies came out in us, just because we loved each other.”

“Private Lives” is one of the most sophisticated, entertaining plays ever written, according to Donaldson, a stage veteran actor, producer and director, last seen this spring playing Helga ten Dorp in “Deathtrap” at the Quality Inn (formerly Riverside Inn).

David Walton (Elyot) was Harvey in Dragonfly’s “Harvey,” and Emma Phillips (Amanda) shared the stage as Myra in “Deathtrap,” along with her grandma Donaldson.

He’s cold, calculating and aloof; she’s gorgeous, generous and engaging.

But like many relationships — stage couples included — they have found the perfect magical chemistry that will be sure to delight the audience.

Two other Dragonfly actors, Earl Sacrey, last seen as Clifford in “Deathtrap” and Lauren Saunders last seen as Sorel in “Hayfever,” are Elyot and Amanda’s respective spouses, Sybil and Victor, caught in the middle.

Donna Holland plays the French maid Louise .

Phillips, an assistant director, says she is “thrilled with the way the cast has worked to keep the nuances of the era, but with fresh eyes on the script.”

She says she feels “exceptionally lucky to have such a dedicated, talented cast, who approach all theatre performances in a most professional manner, which will allow the audience to enjoy, this wonderful play to its full potential.”

Dragonfly Theatre has been performing in Muskoka for almost a dozen now.

They are a  not for profit group started by Emma Phillips, Donaldson and David Eardley, who all hailed from Britain, and were keen to perform many of the British classic plays.

They decided that dinner theatre would be the best way to showcase this idea. Many local actors have been involved in the processs and there are some excellent British accents to be heard in the community since then.

Dragonfly enjoys giving bursaries to local high school students who continue their further education in the arts, drama, dance and music .

Private Lives runs from August 2nd until Aug. 12, Wednesday to Saturday both weeks.

All performances are in the evening, with dinner at 6 p.m. and the show at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are: dinner and show $50; and show-only $25.

The dinner is catered by The Pasta Tree and Smoke House with executive chef David Friesen, who uses all local produce and will accommodate any of your needs if you advise him at the time of booking . Choices are Beef, Chicken, Trout or Vegetarian.

Earl Sacrey and Lauren Saunders play youger spouses Victor and Sybil who are caught in the middle.

Earl Sacrey and Lauren Saunders play youger spouses Victor and Sybil who are caught in the middle.


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