Benjamin Mattson and Stephanie Storhaugh rehearse a scene from "Private Lives"
Benjamin Mattson and Stephanie Storhaugh rehearse a scene from "Private Lives" (Courtesy of Renee Lucero)

FARMINGTON — What happens when a divorced couple discovers they are still in love?

San Juan College's theater department's fall production of Noel Coward's "Private Lives" provides one answer. The play opened Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Directed by guest artist Matthew Vire, the play tells the story of a divorced couple celebrating their honeymoons with their new spouses at the same hotel.

"I really love the moment of discovery," Vire said.

Vire first saw "Private Lives" 25 years ago.

"Ever since then, it's been a favorite of mine," he said.

Vire described the play as a comedy and a love story.

The characters are crazy, but they are also like us, he said.

"They're trying desperately to find their way," Vire said.

The play is done as a "comedy of manners," which is a satirical form popular in England that focuses on social class. Because of this, Vire said, the play is done best with a British accent. Vire said this was the biggest challenge directing the play because all of the actors had to learn to speak with the British accent without overdoing it and provide a "consistent, believable sound."

As the play progresses, the former husband and wife discover they are actually still in love with each other.

Vire said the characters know what is morally right, but their heart is telling them something different. They are torn between not wanting to hurt somebody and the desire to be with the person they love.

However, Vire said there isn't one particular character that the audience pities.

"All of the characters are flawed in the most wonderful way," Vire said.

As the play progresses, the sophisticated and educated characters begin to show child-like qualities as they attempt to "one-up" each other.

When playwright Coward first released the play in the 1930s, critics called it light, fluffy and not too serious. Vire said Coward didn't mind because the play sold tickets. He said it continues to be a crowd pleaser.

"He really wrote this play for the audience to have a good time," Vire said.

IF YOU GO

What: Private Lives

When: 7 p.m. today and Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall

Tickets: $10

More info: 505-566-3430

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.