From Staff Reports
This August, the Johnson City Community Theater will bring to the stage Sir Alan Ayckbourne’s ingenious comedy, “How the Other Half Loves.”
Set in 1970, New York City, the play is at once timeless in its themes, and yet caught in a moment of time like no other. It is an era of revolutions of all sorts, but most importantly for Ayckbourne, and the subsequent 80 plays he would write after “How the Other Half Loves,” is the revolution of women’s roles and a breaking down of strict class structures, which all play a part in this imaginative farce comedy.
The play itself depends on unique characteristics of the era, such as having only one family telephone for communication, which makes having secret conversations, like those between characters Bob and Fiona, nearly impossible. Yet for all of its connections to the year 1970, the play speaks to audiences as if it were written today. As long as couples argue and cheat on each other, as long as company CEO’s remain capable of being addlebrained oafs, as long as there are gender divides, economic divides and a race toward social status, this play remains a timely treat.
Much of the fun of this play lies in its ingenious staging. Directors Sabra Hayden and Angus Walton remain true to much of the original direction, which asks the audience to take an imaginative leap and pay close attention to small details, as they experience two families simultaneously sharing the same stage. Frank and Fiona Foster are among the upper crust of society, and occupy an area not set apart from, but within the world of Bob and Theresa Phillips, a young couple at the bottom of the social ladder. It is a true audience challenge to keep up with where and when the scenes are happening, as small clues are dropped here and there by the characters.
Two of these four characters are having a secret affair, and when questions are raised, another couple, working hard to make their way into higher social circles, are thrust into a realm of confusion and hilarity.
Frank Foster, (the addlebrained CEO), is brilliantly portrayed by Larry Bunton, who has a knack for comic timing. Bunton, a veteran actor in this region, is regularly seen in productions at the JCCT, and recently performed in Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Married to Frank is the elegant Fiona Foster, played by Jules Corriere, and together, they represents the dear yet often dull routine of a couple in long-term relationship. Contrasted to this is the Phillips family, newly married, often not happily, played by a rebellious Chris Jones, who most audiences will remember for his role in “Farce of Nature.” Bob Phillip’s wife (and often-time opponent) Terry, is a force to be reckoned with, in a fierce performance by Carolee Mabe, most recently seen in “RENT” and “White Christmas.” Countering these two couples are the meek Detweilers, doing everything they can to rise in the ranks of the upper-middle class, including attending social functions for which they have no experience to glean from, providing plenty of awkward and hilarious moments in the play. Audiences may have seen Matt Quick, who plays the brown-nosing William Detweiler, in last year’s production of Like Kissing Moonlight, or in Greeneville’s Capital Theater as a member of the improve group “Blue Plate Special.” William often boasts of grooming and molding his mild-natured wife, Mary, into the kind of woman he thinks she should be. Mary is played by Kaylie Crain, who is making her stage debut at the JCCT in a role that accomplishes what the other female characters in the play are striving toward- a change in the status quo.
The play opens Aug. 12 and runs three weekends through Aug. 27. Tickets are $15, with senior and students prices of $12 and are available by calling the box office at 926-2542. For questions and information, please email [email protected] or call 926-2542.