AISLE SAY Florida
THE CONSTANT WIFE
by Somerset Maugham
Directed by Mark Rucker
Asolo Repertory Theatre in FSU
for Performing Arts, Mertz Theatre
5555 N. Tamiami Tr., Sarasota;
In repertory Dec. 7, Õ07 to March 12, Õ08
Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker
Sparkling repartee and sassy reversals in this drawing room comedy of manners puts Maugham in the company of Wycherly, Wilde, Coward and close to meeting their standards. In the London of 80 years ago, Constance and John Middleton project the image of a perfect love-match in an upper-class marriage. But gathered in their flowery parlor, those close to Constance (lovely, sophisticated Dana Green) bemoan her ignorance of her surgeon-husbandÕs affair with her best friend. Her sharp-tongued sister Martha (Jessie Blue Gormezano, looking always out of Vogue) wants to shame John by telling Constance and letting her recriminate against him. Their mother, old-guard Mrs. Culver (Carolyn Michel, keeping a stiff upper lip and a cool head under extravagant hats), thinks women should make the best of marriage, accepting menÕs inevitable infidelities. Widowed Barbara (self-assured Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris), a happy, successful businesswoman, would love to have her friend Constance out of the manor to work with her.
From foreign lands, ConstanceÕs old fiancˇ Bernard (stalwart John Preston) reappears, with stars in his eyes still lovingly focused on her. ItÕs time for her to admit how hard sheÕs worked to keep secret her knowledge of JohnÕs affair, what with Martha so ready to publicly disgrace him. SheÕs even covered up for John and Marie Louise (Julie Lachance, typically blond and flighty), when the latterÕs husband Mortimer thinks heÕs found evidence of their latest fling. (Douglas Jones begins in a screaming huff and ends in screamingly funny remorse.) As John, Bryan Torfeh is the epitome of a straying husband, thinking his pathÕs been made straight. GreenÕs impressive Constance, however, is not ready to keep him completely off the hook. Not to be dependent on John (or, for that matter, Bernard—whoÕs proposed to her), sheÕs going to join Barbara, working as an interior decorator.
A year later, a complete change in Constance is reflected in the transformation of her traditional parlor to a mainly white and silver dˇcor with vanilla modern furniture, satin couch, fireplace. (Eric FlatmoÕs scenic designs are a marvel. Katherine Roth dresses Constance in white chiffon with long pearls, culmination of a parade of stylish, colorful ensembles for the cast.) As friends and family gather, and Marie Louise returns from a trip and set on a new young conquest, Constance tells to all what sheÕs going to do with her Economic Freedom, her favorite thing. Bernard figures in on it but pretends heÕs not in a hilarious reminder of the cover-up at the playÕs opening. However much he frets, John does not have the last laugh. The audienceÕs, though, is hearty for this satisfying production of a clever comedy.
Stage Manager: Juanita Mumford; Assistant Director: Jennifer Sassaman; Sound: Matthew Parker; Lighting: James D. Sale. Time: 2 hrs., 30 mins. w/2 intervals.