Raleigh Little Theatre will present How the Other Half Loves — British playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn's hilarious 1969 farce about marriage and adulterous affairs and the miscommunication and gossip that ensue — Nov. 7-23 in its Cantey V. Sutton Main-Stage Theater.
"I had heard of the play quite often," says RLT guest director Kevin Ferguson, "as it is an oft-produced staple on the community and regional [theater] circuit. I saw a production in Florida about 10 years ago, in a small community theater.
"Unfortunately," Ferguson says, "the only thing I can remember about that production is that I didn't find it particularly funny. When I read the play for the first time (earlier this year when it was introduced as a season selection for RLT), I thought that it was a very funny show."
Ferguson adds, "I love the challenges that this play throws at just about everyone involved with the production. Ayckbourn's manipulation of the time and space unities really keeps you on your toes; you can't ever lose your focus or you are done for. What's especially amazing is how effortless he makes it seem. The hard part for the director, actors, and designers is to make it appear that way without getting too cute or clever with the staging or the business.
"I knew that there were actors in the area that could really sink their teeth into this material," Ferguson claims, "and make it come alive, and I was eager to work with them on it. Luckily for me, they auditioned for the show and I have a first-rate cast."
Ferguson says, "The plot of How the Other Half Loves revolves around three middle-class couples linked by one adulterous affair. Bob Phillips (David McClutchey) is having an affair with his boss's wife, Fiona Foster (Amy Flynn). When their spouses, suspicious Teresa (Tracey Phillips) and absent-minded Frank (Rob Jenkins), start asking questions, the feckless lovers concoct a story involving William and Mary Detweiler (Jack Prather and Adrienne Morton), a seemingly innocuous couple from the office. This 'little lie' quickly takes on a life of its own and, before long, the Detweilers are having dinner with the Fosters on one night and the Phillips the next, leading to two equally disastrous dinner parties occurring onstage at the same time."
Besides director Kevin Ferguson, the RLT production team for How the Other Half Loves includes set designer Rick Young, costume designer Vicki Olson, sound designer Ed Bodell, and props designer Jim Bates.
"The show is set in 1971," Ferguson says, "and the set and costumes will be representative of the middle-class suburban American lifestyle of that era. The designers and I have given a good deal of attention to defining the subtle differences that existed within that class structure as well."
Kevin Ferguson admits, "The challenges involved with staging this play are considerable to say the least. ...Mr. Ayckbourn really has a lot of fun stretching the unities in this one. The action of the play takes place in two separate locations; sometimes the action is occurring at the same time and other times it is occurring on consecutive evenings at the same time.
"To add to the madness," Ferguson says, "the show requires a sort of 'Franken-set' that overlaps and intermingles the two homes into one entity. I think everyone involved with the show would agree with me when I say that keeping all of this clearly defined (to both themselves and to the audience) is the single biggest challenge behind the show."
Raleigh Little Theatre presents How the Other Half Loves Friday-Saturday, Nov. 7-8, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 9, at 3 p.m.; Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 12-15 and 19-22, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 16 and 23, at 3 p.m. in RLT's Cantey V. Sutton Main-Stage Theater, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $19 Friday-Saturday, $17 Thursday and Sunday, and $13 Wednesday, except $11 Sunday for students and seniors and $5 Thursday Night Rush (You must buy tickets the day of the performance). 919/821-3111. http://raleighlittletheatre.org/other.htm [inactive 6/04]. Note 1: All performances are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows. Note 2: RLT will provide audio description of the Nov. 16 matinee performance.