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How the Other Half Loves

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HOW THE OTHER HALF LOVES, Broutil and Frothingham Productions, at the Theatre Building. Alan Ayckbourn is a hard-core if droll formalist, which is to say his plays often aren't about much of anything besides themselves. How the Other Half Loves is no exception. Its chief strategy, the simultaneous presentation of two separate domestic situations in one composite living room, allegedly comments on class--one couple's upper, the other lower--but the play is mostly concerned with the ingeniousness of the stagecraft conceit. This tour de farce would fall flat in inexperienced or underrehearsed hands, but the Broutil and Frothingham company is up to its demands.

The plot revolves around an adulterous fling involving Bob (Brian Posen) and his boss's wife, Fiona (Mary Poole). Their botched cover-up implicates an innocent couple, who suffer through well-intentioned interventions by the boss and less well-intentioned ones by Bob's suspicious wife (Maia Rosenfeld). Wacky high jinks ensue. It's all an excuse for Ayckbourn and the cast to show off their agility, ping-ponging between parallel and intersecting scenes with dizzying precision.

The all-important set, designed by Richard and Jacqueline Penrod, is handsomely schizophrenic. Terry McCabe's direction, mostly a matter of choreography and timing, is fluid and exact. And the cast is nearly flawless--though the polished slapstick of George Seegebrecht as the hilarious, lisping, perversely lovable upper-class twit Frank ultimately carries this gleefully trivial production.

--Brian Nemtusak

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