How the Other Half Loves
by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by James Kall
Performed by Lisa Horner, Keith Savage, Marlene Handrahan, Daniela Vlaskalic, David Snelgrove, Rob McClure.
Playhouse II, Grand Bend
July 12 to 23, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Half and Half show is the Cream of Comedy
Huron Country Playhouse opened their new second stage with a hilarious comedy “How The Other Half Loves”. As workers scrambled get the seats in the new theatre, the show was taking to the stage. The new theatre opened minus finishing touches such as trim, final painting and curtains on the stage.
The space is going to be wonderful, with a large stage and 300 roomy seats on a slanted floor with good sightlines, compared to only 150 chairs on a flat floor in the old Playhouse II. Apparently, carpenters and painters will continue working each Monday when there are no performances, to finish the theatre. Artistic Director Alex Mustakas joked that we should not lean back too far in our seats as they haven’t had time to bolt them to the floor yet.
To christen the new theatre, an old comedy was presented, one that I had seen on the main stage at Huron Country Playhouse, possibly 25 or 30 years ago. How the Other Half Loves is a comedy by Sir Alan Ayckbourn, a prolific British playwright, who excels at making an audience laugh at the foibles of people in relationships.
The story involves the lives of three couples: Frank and Fiona Foster (Rob McClure and Marlene Handraham), Bob and Teresa Phillips (David Snelgrove and Daniela Vlaskalic) and William and Mary Featherstone (Keith Savage and Lisa Horner). Frank is the well-to-do boss of Bob and William. Fiona, a more mature woman, is having an affair with Bob, a younger cad. Both are lying to their spouses to cover their infidelity. Frank is oblivious to the affair thinking everything is fine in his marriage, while Teresa is very unhappy, stuck at home with a young child. Both the unfaithful spouses have used innocent bystanders William and Mary Featherstone in their alibis, saying they have been out late helping William or Mary, creating falsehoods about the state of William and Mary’s marriage. Obviously the web of lies unravels with great hilarity.
What makes this play special is that it allows the audience to transcend time and space to see what is happening with all the characters at all times. The set is brilliantly built, with walls zig-zagging across the stage. Both the Fosters and Phillips’ homes are represented by every other piece of wall. Congratulations to set and lighting designer Steve Lucas for pulling off this interesting mishmash.
The Fosters’ home is well-appointed with handsome woodwork, while the Phillips’ home has tacky sixties-style turquoise wall-paper. Even the table is comprised of both homes – lengthwise it is Fosters table, with a lace tablecloth and crystal wine glasses. Crosswise it is the Phillips table with a green plastic tablecloth and tumblers for the wine, stuffed with paper towel due to a lack of napkins.
This unusual table gives us the funniest scene in the show – The Featherstones are invited to dinner – at the Phillips on Thursday night and the Fosters on Friday night, but we see both evenings at the same time. As the Featherstones, Keith Savage and Lisa Horner are seated on swivel chairs – when they face each other they are at the Phillips’ green plastic table cloth, when they swing towards the audience, they are at the Fosters’ lace covered table. This is delicious fodder for Savage and Horner, offering the perfect opportunity for their comic brilliance. Each swivel of the chair brings a new laugh – sometimes just a look on the face or a little gesture is all that’s needed to get the audience roaring with laughter.
The pair was applauded just for walking on stage on opening night. Both played multi-roles, all hilarious, in Hairspray, which just closed at HCP. They deserve great credit for rehearsing How the Other Half Loves while still appearing in Hairspray.
Rob McClure was excellent as Frank Foster, dithering about with no idea that his wife is carrying on with his employee. I especially enjoyed his fun with accents as he practised his speech in his attempt to fix the Featherstones’ marriage, which he believes needs repair.
While Ayckbourne’s script has plenty of good comedy, it is showing its age with a comment about husbands hitting wives, and there’s nothing funny in that. Thank goodness, it is saved by Lisa Horner’s character showing her growing strength. It’s remains a lot of fun and a chance to take in the new theatre.
How the Other Half Loves continues with eight shows a week until July 23 at Playhouse II Grand Bend. Tickets are available at Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check www.draytonentertainment.com