Theatre Mirror Reviews - "How The Other Half Loves"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark

"How The Other Half Loves"

by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Polly Hogan

Set Design by Janie Fleigel
Lighting Design by Richard Jeter
Costume Design by Jana Howland
Stage Manager Michele Keith

Fiona Foster.............Donna Sorbello
Theresa Phillips..........Denise Cormier
Frank Foster................Ron Ritchell
Bob Phillips...............Michael Walsh
William Featherstone.....James L. Walker
Mary Featherstone...........Marilyn Mays

Farce is usually about what doors get slammed behind what characters when. "How The Other Half Loves" is about rooms: about a kitchen or a living-room or a dining-room space being used by two different couples at the very same time. It's the kind of play in which a character can run screaming out of one living-room, and continue screaming until she enters, screaming, into the same set but a completely different couple's home moments later. (With me so far?)

But farce is also about misunderstandings, usually about "sleeping arrangements", and Alan Ayckbourn's farce is no exception. Three different sexual affairs are talked about here, only one of which is actually going on --- and that one is unsuspected most of the time, and misunderstood when uncovered. A typical farce on that score.

And farce would not be funny without caricatures --- characters pushed to their ridiculous extremes. Ron Ritchell plays a department-head so totally absent-minded and yet determined to repair things and interpersonal relations that it's a wonder his appliances his business his friends' lives or his own marriage have lasted so long. Apparently Donna Sorbello, as his long- suffering constantly coping wife, who keeps him on a muddled but more or less even keel.

Denise Cormier and Michael Walsh constitute a modern pair of young parents so prone to peremptory rages against one another as to cast doubt on their own or their infant Benjamin's continued comfortable existence --- except that they do eagerly head for the bedroom when reconciling their spats.

Caught in a kind of meat-grinder of misunderstandings between these two odd couples --- in fact, sitting at the very same table with both during two separate dinner-parties that are shown taking place in the same space at the same time --- are James L. Walker as a conservative accountant and Marilyn Mays as his simple, mousey, socially inept wife.

None of these characters are very believable, but under Polly Hogan's direction their oddities look odd only in earlier introductory scenes. Once she's wound up this little farce-machine and all the little parts go bombulating against one another like a clockowork jackass with its joints too well oiled for its own good, too many hysterical things and lines go flying in all directions too fast and furiously funnily for thought.

And that's what makes a good farce fun.



140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON
till 22 December

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide