PLAYBILL PICKS: Timeless Love Affairs on Stage

By Robert Simonson
13 Feb 2014

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
photo by Martha Swope

Private Lives

They coo. They cut. They cuddle. They throw objects. They kiss. They punch. Elyot and Amanda aren't the ideal love match. But what they've got has a lot of spunk, and it never seems to quite die out. Playwright Noel Coward, after all, has the two meet again while honeymooning (in neighboring suites with adjoining balconies) with their new spouses. Who wins out? Well, not the spouses. Despite the fractious nature of the central relationship, the 1931 comedy has become a byword for urbane, sophisticated, modern romance. So much so, in fact, that it is often enacted by real-life couples, never more famously than when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (by that time, divorced for the second time) did it on Broadway in 1983. They, too, got along as often as they didn't.