Review: ‘How the Other Half Loves’ at Montgomery Playhouse

Farces are hard to do well or differently, but they nearly always impart an important lesson: always tell the truth. How the Other Half Loves is an innovative farce, replete with secret affairs, dinner parties, and misunderstanding.

Image courtesy of Montgomery Playhouse.

Directed by Michael Abendshein and written by Sir Alan Ayckbourn, How the Other Half Loves simultaneously takes place (in the late 1960s) in the homes of Frank and Fiona Foster (Dino Coppa and Carole Preston) and Bob and Teresa Phillips (Peter Rouleau and Margo Weill). Many of the scenes in the play overlap time (in this case, a Thursday and Friday night dinner party) especially when couple William and Mary Detweiler (Randy Lindsay and Elizabeth A. Weiss) show up to the dinner parties.

The cast gamely elevated a disjointed script with good individual performances. Lindsay, a former professional wrestler in his debut at Montgomery Playhouse, displayed priceless and pained facial expressions when his character contemplated possible infidelity by his wife. Lindsay’s head looked like it might burst and discharge all over the stage, so pent up was his comic rage.

Weiss made Mary Detweiler a ditzy companion to her husband William; she brought a modest schoolgirl energy to the role. Her various hippieish dresses came courtesy of Costume Designer Stephanie Yee. Weiss began her Montgomery Playhouse career at age 12.

Coppa, who won a Best Featured Actor WATCH award in 2010 for Moonlight & Magnolias, was spot on as the clueless Frank Foster, Bob Phillips’ boss. Coppa had to run around the stage–thankfully not around a couch–and his high-knee stepping gait was hilarious. Coppa was the spark plug of many of the scenes, especially the dinner party scenes. Preston played Fiona Foster’s arc by making the character defiant in some scenes in the show and vulnerable to her husband Frank’s painful questioning in others. Yee’s costume magic provided Preston a couple of elegant dresses.

Rouleau, in his third Montgomery Playhouse appearance, made Bob Phillips a bored, sloppy husband. Rouleau’s face brought a lot of subtext to a character with a wife, baby (the unseen Benjamin), and demanding job. Weill, who recently played Helsa Wenzel in The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, turned Teresa Phillips into a sneering and verbally biting housewife, who became increasingly suspicious of her husband’s comings and goings; her character carped about being stuck at home with Benjamin.

David Jones’ pedestrian set was brilliantly decorated by Kay Coupe, Susan Click, and Nancy Davis with artifacts such as an Eiffel Tower replica and vintage radios. Somehow Lauren-Nicole Gabel found a vintage portapram as a prop. Kristen Pilgrim’s fight choreography could have used sound effects to help sell the strikes.

While How the Other Half Loves takes a while to get going–the first act is 90 minutes–it has moments of laser-sharp dialog and innovative, simultaneous scenes. This is a good show for couples to watch and reflect on.

Note: The Montgomery Playhouse celebrated its 90th birthday on May 22, 2019. Its first show was entitled A Successful Calamity.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

How the Other Half Loves plays through June 23, 2019, presented by Montgomery Playhouse at the Kentlands Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, go online.