By Muriel J. Smith
FREEHOLD – It isn’t just a comedy, it’s an exercise for the brain! And better than that, it just makes you feel good! That’s the consensus of theatergoers for the opening night of How the Other Half Loves playing at the Center Playhouse weekends through February 26th!
In addition to being the first production by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn at the South Street venue, the play was directed by Janet Lynn Spahr, a dynamic retired drama and English teacher armed with a ton of degrees and experience. This is Ms. Spahr’s first production at the theater, and judging from the opening night reactions, it won’t be her last. Ably assisted by stage manager Colleen DeFelice, long a part of the Center Players family both as manager and actress, and Zach Berman, assistant stage manager, who’s new last year to the Freehold theater family, Ms. Spahr’s unique production comes off flawlessly, funny, and full of laughs. With producer/star Anthony Greco heading the production, it’s certain this is another winner for Center Players.
The six member cast rises to the level of excellence the backstage staff expects of them, and the result is a dynamic couple of hours. Our own personal favorite..and everyone has at least one….is Freehold resident Yvette Cataneo, whose comedic talents are perfect for the role of Teresa Philips. Her flair for comedy, stage presence, and facial expressions make you forget her very real talent as a soprano just as comfortable on the operatic stage. Jeff Caplan, most recently seen in It’s A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play, but also well remembered as Father Flynn in Doubt, plays her formidable and rather unlikeable husband, while Greco portrays William Detweiler, one half of the couple caught up in the medley of mishaps between the Philips and the Fosters. Detweiler’s wife is portrayed by Danielle Gordon, a junior at the Academy of Allied Health and Science, an attractive and pert young woman who would have a career on stage whenever she wants. The third couple on the scene are the energetic and very believeable Rupert Hinton as Frank Foster and his wife, Fiona, played by a very sophisticated Lorin Ottone, whom the audience was happy to see back on the Freehold stage after her appearance last summer in Sylvia.
As excellent as the cast and producers are, it’s really the unique and clever stage presentation that sets How the Other Half Loves a cut above the rest. In true Ayckbourn style, both time (two different nights) and place (two different apartments) are on stage simultaneously. The precision stop action movement of each couple while the other is in featured dialogue and riveting activity, is outstanding. As perfect as it was on opening night, it’s hard to imagine it could get any better over extended performances. While the action makes your brain hop frivolously from one apartment to the other, it’s easy to get involved and switch from one apartment to the other inside your head. Unique, clever, and highly entertaining!
This one is a must see at the Center Playhouse. Visit www.centerplayers.org for tickets and upcoming productions this year!