Early in the second act of Noel Coward’s “Design for Living” a successful writer skims reviews of his latest play, one of which declares “…the dialogue is polished, sustains a high level from first to last and is frequently witty, even brilliant.” This is an apt description for the limited but enjoyable dramaturgical merits of this campy 1932 high-English comedy currently at Circle Theatre. Quite simply, the play concerns the long-term triangular relationship among playwright Leo, painter Otto and interior designer Gilda, the woman in this ménage, and it doesn’t get much deeper than that. But it’s a treat to hear Coward’s acerbic argot and stylish witticisms impeccably articulated with relentless energy and relish courtesy of an ensemble clearly comfortable with the play’s class, accent and period nuances. Equally impressive is director Jim Schneider’s eye for detail: from the elegant setting to the sparkling and dapper costumes to the persnickety mannerisms, every physical aspect contributes to the production’s polished veneer. Unlike recent revivals, this production plays down Leo and Otto’s homoeroticism implicit in the script, rendering their danse d’amour with Gilda more psychologically than sexually charged. Still, it makes for bloody-good escapist entertainment. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
“Design for Living” plays at Circle Theatre, 7300 West Madison Street, Forest Park, (708) 771-0700, through October 23rd.