The Shawnee Theatre in Bloomfield opens their forty-sixth season with Ana Ayckbourn’s wildly complex farce, "How the Other Half Loves" in a production directed by Shawnee veteran N. Christian Bottorf.
On opening night the theatre filled with an audience that included many Shawnee regulars. Friends greeted one another and there were many families, some with more than two generations. Behind me, a girl was telling a friend, which of "How the Other Half Loves" cast members were there last summer and which were new.
In "How the Other Half Loves" there are two homes set side by side on the stage with the couples coming and going oblivious to one another. Shawnee regular April Pletcher and a favorite from last summer Jeff Ray Taylor were the Fosters. Newcomers Lindsay Halderman and C.J. Karpiak were the Phillips. It quickly becomes obvious that Mr. Phillips and Mrs. Foster have been having a clumsily concealed affair.
Things heat up when the two miscreants use the innocent William and Mary Featherstone, Jim Forsythe and Amanda Hansen, as their excuse for a late night rendezvous. In one of the most hilarious, and complexly choreographed scenes, the poor Featherstones are at an excruciatingly uncomfortable elegant Thursday night dinner with the Fosters and at the same time, at the same table, at a slap dash affair with the Phillips. It’s hard to explain but quite funny to see.
Following the opening performance of "How the Other Half Loves" there was an elegant reception for audience, cast and crew in the gallery where in addition to professional pieces there were works from the art classes of area schools. The audience for opening night was warmly receptive, laughed loud and clapped enthusiastically, but it’s still a conservative group in its praise. As I walked out two women ahead of me were summing up the evening. "That was pretty good," said one. "Not half bad," said her companion.
Things move fast at the Shawnee Theatre in the summer. "How the Other Half Loves" plays tonight, and Saturday night, and closes on Sunday afternoon. Next Thursday, "Wait Until Dark," the stage thriller that inspired the famous movie with Audrey Hepburn opens.