A Little Lie Is A Dangerous Thing In How the Other Half Loves at N.T.C.

Karen Leland as Teresa Phillips and Chuck Isen as Bob Phillips in How the Other Half Loves

Director Billie Cox discovered an American version of Alan Ayckbourn's British farce, How the Other Half Loves.  This version takes place in Everycity, USA in 1970.  This comedy shows the lives and loves of three married couples--an upper class couple, a middle class couple and a lower class couple in American society. It is also about the precise interactions of gender and class.  

How the Other Half Loves is a timeless analysis of the state of marriage as well as a study of the foibles of each of its couples' individual characters.  We witness what happens when two people attempt to cover up an affair by lying to their spouses about where they were on a particular evening.  Unfortunately, the lies involve an innocent couple who are then invited to dinner by the lied-to spouses.  

The innocent couple attends two different dinner parties on two different nights to work through issues with hilarious results.  In order to do this, the show uses one single set designed by Gary Gonser which represents two living and dining rooms at once as this play takes place in two different places at the same time and sometimes, not even the same time, as it juggles both time and space which allows events in different homes, and on two different evenings to happen simultaneously.  This duality reflects the duplicity of the cheating spouses and also serves as a comedic device when the third couple is brought in. All the characters are onstage in the highly entertaining depiction of two separate dinner parties and watching the innocent couple bounce between one dinner and the next is hysterical.  

Frank and Fiona Foster are an older couple with a cool, distant, yet polite marriage in an American upper crust sort of way.  Played by Louis Schilling, Frank is a stereotypical, bumbling, dunderheaded, forgetful, yet endeared partner to Fiona who is played with exasperated impatience by Pennell Chapin.  Fiona is having an affair with one of Frank's employees, Bob Phillips.  Chuck Isen portrays Bob with a somewhat loutish and almost menacing air, especially when dealing with his complaining wife, Teresa.  Teresa, as played by Karen Leland, is a stressed and neglected new mother who suspects Bob of cheating on her and is somewhat shrewish in her manner of pointing out to Bob her views of their unbalanced relationship.  

Rounding out the trio of maladjusted marriages are William and Mary Detweiler.  When questioned about their whereabouts on the night of one of their evening trysts, Bob and Fiona both tell their spouses they were with William and Mary respectively to lend a supportive ear to their tales of of the breakup of their marriage because of infidelity.  This is the lie that sets the dinner parties in motion to the confusion of the young Detweilers who are excellently portrayed by Jeffrey Orth and Eileen Fisher.

Billie Cox has established a great sense of timing with her cast in directing this delightful farce. I highly recommend the show for a night filled with laughter.  

How the Other Half Loves runs through September 25, 2011 at the Novato Theater Company, Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. The Novato Theater Company Playhouse is located at 484 Ignacio Blvd., in Pacheco Plaza, Novato.  For tickets, call 415-883-4498 or go online at www.novatotheatercompany.org.

Flora Lynn Isaacson