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Theatre Intime’s ‘How the Other Half Loves’ showcases class divisions through set design

OtherHalfColor1 copy
OtherHalfColor1 copy

In Theatre Intime’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1969 play “How the Other Half Loves,” the stage is literally divided in two halves.

“One half [of the set] is painted blue and gray; it’s got nice molding, nice wainscoting, nice furniture and it’s supposed to be for the wealthier family in this play,” production manager Rachel Xu ’17 said. “The other half is painted a hideous yellow and brown color scheme; it’s cluttered and gross, and so there is a very visual dichotomy that works well with the play.”

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Concerning the implications of infidelity between three couples, the comedic “How the Other Half Loves” seeks to distinguish itself from a crowded Reunions lineup of shows by competing theater groups through an innovative stage design and a show that appeals to both younger and older audiences.

The premise considers three couples — the wealthy Frank and Fiona Foster, the less well-endowed Bob and Teresa Philips and the innocent William and Mary Detweiller. Bob and William both work for Frank, but Bob and Frank’s wife Fiona are having an affair, while William suspects his wife Mary of infidelity. The Fosters and Philips couples have the Detweillers over to dinner on successive days to sort the mess out. Naturally, farcical hilarity ensues.

“There are very obvious parallels between the two couples,” Xu said. “A moment that happens in one of the households is sort of mirrored in the other.”

According to director Kristen Coke ’16, the show is appealing because of the ability of the characters to be relatable.

“What really drew me to it [the show] was that I immediately was able to connect with all of the characters even though they all are older than I am,” Coke said. “I just felt like they were really real people that an audience would be able to sit down, be like, ‘Yes, I know a couple of people like this.’”

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Coke is a senior writer for the Street section of the Daily Princetonian. According to Coke, the show’s timing during reunions presented challenges in recruiting a talented cast and finding housing for everyone, as well as scheduling rehearsals during finals week. But the amount of free time during dead week proved to be an asset for the show’s set design, Xu said.

“The tech schedule is a lot different because you have finals [week]before, so you can’t really do as much because people are studying,” Xu explained. “But then you have dead week, so you can do more because people are able to be around to build things. We had people in the theater until2 a.m.the last five days putting finishing touches on the set."

Xu added that the set for this production was one of the best Intime has built all year, and the set’s clear delineation of the backgrounds of two main couples helps establish the play’s conflict.

“You really get different vibes just from the set,” Coke said. “From the moment you walk into the theater, you can immediately tell that two different things are going to happen [in regards to the wealthier Fosters and the Philips household, the two couples who inhabit the different houses].”

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Robby Keown ’17, Nadia Diamond ’17, Erin O'Brien ’16, Adam Hudnut-Beumler ’17, T.J. Smith ’16and Alex Vogelsang ’18 star in the production.

“Also, I think my actors all come from different walks of life. They really come together and create these really adorable couples,” Coke said. “I didn’t really think who I [was] pairing together; [I] really [was] picking the most talented person for the individual roles. They’ve worked so well as couples, so well as a team together. I’m really excited to see it all happen.”

“How the Other Half Loves” will runMay 28-30, at8 p.m.on ThursdayandFridayand7 p.m.on Saturdayin the Hamilton-Murray Theater.

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