Design For Living

Starring Alan Cumming (Otto), Jennifer Ehle (Gilda), and Dominic West (Leo), and directed by Joe Mantello, this revival of Noel Coward's play opens March 15, 2001 at the American Airlines Theater in New York.

TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE!!! Call 212-719-1300 to make your reservation for this limited engagement show. The show opened March 15 and ends May 13 2001.

DFL originally opened on Broadway in 1933 and was considered raunchy for the day. In fact, it was prohibited from being staged in England until 1939 by Lord Chamberlein's office. However, it was a critical and commercial success both on Broadway and the West End.

The 1933 film version, as directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starred Gary Cooper, Frederick March, and Miriam Hopkins. Much of the dialogue from the play was lost as well as the homosexual tones that were carefully constructed by Coward.


The play revolves around the relationship between three friends: Otto, a painter (originally played by Alfred Lunt), Gilda, an interior decorator (originally played by Lynne Fontanne) and Leo, a playwright (originally played by NoŽl himself). Theirs is an unconventional relationship even by today's standards, as it turns the eternal romantic triangle into a pyramid; Gilda attempts a conventional relationship with each man, but ends up cheating on each of them with the other. It is only when they realize that the one thing missing in each pairing is the third individual, that they settle down together as a trio.

Design for Living has always been labeled as a thinly disguised gay play, as the relationship between Otto and Leo is as strong as the relationships either man has with Gilda. During its out-of-town tryouts, Design for Living acquired a scandalous reputation as having a 'touch of lavender' about it, which thrilled the audiences, and was scoffed at by reviewers (only Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times even made mention of the possible gay relationship of the two bachelors in the play, but he quickly passed over it claiming, "although there is a constant odor of abnormality about this one, it is no more sensuous or erotic than a highly polished blade of steel.")

But it is scarcely a hidden or deeply closeted play. With Leo saying to Gilda, "the actual facts are so very simple. I love you, you love me. You love Otto. I love Otto. Otto loves you. Otto loves me..." and the trio being described as "a disgusting three-sided erotic hotch-potch" and "the Three Famous Hermaphrodites!" it is hard to see how anybody could miss the obvious. It was a show in which the more you knew (or thought you knew) about the sexual proclivities of the stars, the more you got out of the show and could 'read between the lines.'


Roundabout Theatre
Great Performances: The Noel Coward Story
Knitting Circle: Noel Coward
March 3 2001 Story
Candid and Production Pictures

ARTICLES News Article
Dominic West Interview


Aisle Say
Bergen Record
NY Daily News
NY Post
NY Times
USA Today

Do you have any trivia, pictures, or links to add? Let me know!