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'How the Other Half Loves' by Alan Ayckbourn highlights the phases, confusion of relationships

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - A cast of six includes three couples at different stages in their relationships. In theater, you have your romances, your comedies, your romantic comedies — those plays that just make you think. Alan Ayckbourn decided to put all of the genres together in "How the Other Half Loves," the play with which Sandy Actors Theatre will open its 40th season.

From Sept. 8 through Oct. 1, a diversely dramatic — and dramatically diverse — cast of six players will present the story of love, life and all the little things that get in the way.

"How the Other Half Loves" not only crosses genres, but combines two households, showing each simultaneously yet separately.

They're shown in the same place at the same time, but they're living two separate days. This multi-dimensional quality enhances the hilarity of the play while adding depth to the relationships represented.

The storyline highlights the ups, downs and affairs of the heart within the relationships of three couples. These include the middle-class and middle-aged pair of Bob and Teresa, the mature-but-messy marriage of Frank and Fiona, and the young and carefree union of William and Mary.

"He plays with what we think of as family and love and the way different people and different relationships work," said Bryan Luttrell, who plays Frank. "You see all these other phases of love converge."

Luttrell's character, in his obliviousness to his wife's transgressions and false sense of control as boss to both William and Bob, provides the needed humor to diffuse the seriousness of what's happening between the characters.

Being set in the late 1960s and early '70s, the play shines a light on the feelings of women at the time, when a lot was changing in American households and workplaces regarding women's roles.

"Women were getting their freedom," Director Anita Sorel explained. And all three women — Teresa, Fiona and Mary — struggle with feelings of being under appreciated and coming to terms with what they want to do. And, all three women express these emotions entirely differently: Fiona has an affair, which Mary is then implicated in, while Teresa continuously tries — and fails — to run a tidy household, and please her husband, Bob.

"The wonderful thing — why it's appropriate for anybody — is everybody does a lot of talking, but nobody does anything in the play," Sorel said. "It's what every man and every woman probably goes through ... minus the affairs."

Opening with the play will be the Wy'East Artisans Guild's fall art show. Pieces from the "Off Balance" show will hang at the Sandy Actors Theatre throughout the duration of the "How the Other Half Loves"' run, representing the guild's take on the comedic and all-too-real story.

"Consider the phrase 'Vive la difference'," Vern Groff, member of the guild, said in a statement. "Differences between individuals can be both good or bad. Different experiences, outlooks, expectations, goals and hopes will surprise, delight, put us off, or horrify us. In short, they catch us 'off balance.' It makes life interesting and a challenge."

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