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Theater Review: "How the Other Half Loves" at the Phoenix Theatre 

Wednesday, Jul 14 2010

Alan Ayckbourn's acidic, class-conscious 1969 comedy explores the collateral damage of an affair, leavening bitterness with laughter. The posh wife (Sylvia Kratins) of an absentminded executive (Jeff Garrett) carries on a tryst with his boorish employee (James Darbyshire), whose wary spouse (Corinne Proctor) has just begun wising up. When a mincing co-worker (Adam Simpson) and his own meek wife (Jocelyn Stringer) become the adulterers' unwitting alibi, what follows is a criss-crossing escalation of misunderstanding and mistrust, and standard-issue English dithering graduates to shouting and even some physical combat. In Off Broadway West's take, director Richard Harder has some lethargic introductory pacing to overcome, but eventually finds a solid balance between business and character. His cast, although unevenly skilled, shows a strong bond of common purpose. Yes, the social and sexual codes seem dated, but there is timeless satisfaction to be had from the precise gearwork of Ayckbourn's script — made manifest as much in the cast's collective timing as in Bert van Aalsburg's ambidextrous set, wherein two tables lock together as one for separate but simultaneous dinner parties.

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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