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Theater review: 'How the Other Half Loves' at International City Theatre

May 14, 2010 |  6:00 am

OtherHalf Alan Ayckbourn's "How the Other Half Loves" is built of the standard sex farce elements: spiraling lies, compromising situations and comeuppances barely avoided. But it also offers some thoughtful assessments about why people are so disastrously susceptible to infidelity.

It's easy to see why the 1969 comedy is often revived -- even if one might wish it were a tad more rambunctious. And even if one is aware that there are other, better plays among the British playwright's more than 70 full-length works that keep getting overlooked. 

So please pardon this Ayckbourn fan for being underwhelmed by an "Other Half" at International City Theatre that, like the story's central couples, has trouble maintaining commitment.

Director Todd Nielsen sends the show through the right motions, which, given Ayckbourn's fondness for subverting space and time, means that paths keep crisscrossing before the inevitable collisions.

Appropriate to the period, Stephen Gifford's design for a suburban London living room is godawfully garish, as are Kim DeShazo's chuckle-inducing costumes.

Stress or boredom can be marital irritants, the former condition seen here in new parents (portrayed by Jodi Fleisher and Adam J. Smith), the latter in a long-married pair (DeeDee Rescher and Gregory North). Then there's the eternal man-woman push-pull, thrown into sharper relief when another couple (Erin Anne Williams and James May) gets drawn into the mayhem.  

Here's applause for Williams as a mouse who roars, Smith as a cad so puckish he's almost lovable and North as a windbag so clueless that you almost feel sorry for him. 

But this production keeps pulling back just when it should rush forward. Amp it up, guys, and, next time, try a lesser-seen Ayckbourn play. Hint: "A Small Family Business."

-- Daryl H. Miller

"How the Other Half Loves," International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 23. $32 to $42. (562) 436-4610 or www.internationalcitytheatre.org. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Photo: Clockwise from top, Gregory North, James May and Erin Anne Williams in "How the Other Half Loves" at International City Theatre. Credit: Shashin Desai.

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