Tuesday, February 19, 2013


By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

The cast of "How the Other Half Loves"
H.A.R.T. Theatre’s production of How The Other Half Loves delivers a hearty dose of fast-paced drawing-room comedy to the Washington County theater scene, and Dan Kroon tackles this extraordinarily challenging show with a skill that belies his status as a first-time director.

At first glance it may not seem like that complex an endeavor – after all, there’s only one set and six actors. However, the “one” set is, in fact, two separate apartments simultaneously occupying the same space, and the six cast members (three 1990’s era British couples) inhabit one locale or another within this space depending on the demands of the script. Worse (or better) yet, in a pivotal scene one couple attends two different dinner parties (one in each apartment) with different hosts, on different evenings, at the same time and at the same dining table!

Sound confusing? It could be, but the combination of author Alan Ayckbourn’s warm and witty script, Kroon’s deft direction, a brilliant set, and six solid performances keep the audience on track and engaged for 2+ hours of comedy that flies by. The story itself adheres to many classic “comedy of errors” traditions – marital infidelity (actual and illusory), discontented spouses, stereotypical British class warfare, lies, gossip, and bullies who get their comeuppance.

Michael Rouches as Frank Foster

Michael Harry Rouches plays Frank Foster, the older, gentrified boss whose wife Fiona (Danielle Valentine) is having an affair with one of Frank’s subordinates. Rouches is charmingly befuddled throughout, and one of the most consistently likeable characters in the show – a stark counterpoint to Valentine’s brittle and condescending British matron. Valentine’s comic timing and clipped British accent provide an effective foil to Rouches’ performance as the hapless cuckold.
Dennis Kujawa and Meghan Daaboul (Bob and Teresa Phillips) represent the other end of the class spectrum – he the glib, bullying, self-centered misogynist and she the angry and thoroughly disenchanted working-class new mom who is sure (for good reason) that her no-good husband is cheating.  Kujawa does an outstanding job of making the audience despise him, while Daaboul earns a little sympathy although her maternal skills are somewhat impaired.

Dennis Kujawa and Meghan Daaboul
Brick Andrews as William Featherstone and Holly Danelle as his wife Mary, while given a bit less stage time, are figuratively and literally caught in the middle. Andrews and Danelle carry the dinner party scene on their able shoulders, instantly and fluidly switching between Thursday’s dinner with the boss and Friday’s awkward meal at the Phillips’ apartment. While the entire show calls for exquisite timing, this scene is by far the most demanding, and both Andrews and Danelle rise to the challenge. Furthermore, Danelle does a superb job of navigating her character’s transition from mousy, insecure doormat to, if not Margaret Thatcher, at least a decently assertive and confident woman.

Thanks to director Kroon for assembling a cast capable of making us (and our fellow audience-members) laugh over and over throughout the evening.  The packed house was well-deserved, and we hope that the show enjoys continued strong attendance!

How The Other Half Loves is playing at Hillsboro Artists’ Regional Theatre through March 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment