Canadian actors Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross are drawing rave reviews for their turn in Private Lives on Broadway, with Gross being compared to Cary Grant.
A revival of the 1930s Noel Coward play opened Thursday at the Musicbox Theatre in New York, after enjoying a warm reception during its Toronto run.
Private Lives played just nine years ago on Broadway, with Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan in the lead roles, but the New York Times reports that was a more dry and brooding production.
The Cattrall-Gross version of the play is "frothier, broader and sillier" than its predecessor, writes NYT reviewer Ben Brantley, but nonetheless "makes a case for romantic farce as the flip side of romantic tragedy."
"Gross (a Canadian actor best known for the television shows Due South and Slings and Arrows) has a Dudley Do-Right handsomeness and solidity that could so easily register as bland leading man. But he inflects his masculine presence (as Cary Grant did so marvelously) with an edge of hysteria, of florid exasperation with a world that doesn’t march to his drumbeat," Brantley says.
He has equal praise for Cattrall, saying she effectively throws off her Samantha persona projecting "feminine dewiness" as well as the glamour and wit required from Coward’s heroine.
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney agrees with that assessment, saying Cattrall "looks sensational, a leggy blond panther right out of a 1930s screen comedy in her Marcel Wave and soigné glamour-wear."
"Shaping his clipped tones, deadpan drollery and chiseled, matinee-idol looks into the Cary Grant mold, Canadian actor Gross is every bit Cattrall’s equal," Rooney continued.
He also lauded the taut relationship between the two actors.
"There’s talk of chemistry in Private Lives, and no element is more essential to the success of Noel Coward’s sparkling 1930 comedy than the chemistry between Amanda and Elyot, who fall awkwardly in love again five years after their divorce while honeymooning with their respective new spouses. Even before they share a minute of stage time in the roles in Richard Eyre’s crisp production, Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross make it clear this reckless couple is fated to continue making love and war, whether they like it or not."
Associated Press reviewer Mark Kennedy said Gross is the "perfect mix of brute and sexy cad" while Newsday’s Linda Winer says "Gross matches [Cattrall] in both light-comedy physicality and major sexual chemistry."
Entertainment Weekly writes "this zesty production of Private Lives is a reminder that some people were writing about sex in the city decades before Candace Bushnell was even born," a reference to the author of Sex and the City.
The naysayers include Bloomberg’s Jeremy Gerard, who says Gross "never manages the suavity Elyot must wear like a dinner jacket" and AM New York, which found the "production largely fails to land even the easy laughs."
Gross has moved into writing and directing in recent years with projects such as the film Passchendaele and the TV series, Men with Brooms. His recent on screen roles, including Gunless and Eastwick have been poorly received, but that is far from the case with his Broadway debut in Private Lives.