In its 90-year existence, it is not surprising when Montgomery Playhouse occasionally repeats a play. Such is the case with “How the Other Half Loves,” a farce by British writer Alan Ayckbourn.
With good reason, said Michael Abendshein, who is staging this production in his debut as a director of a full-length work at the Playhouse.
“It’s very funny, with double entendres and sly jokes,” said Abendshein. “If you don’t pay particularly close attention, you might miss them.”
The play, which had its premiere in England in 1969, assured Ayckbourn’s playwriting success. It follows the consequences of an illicit affair between a married man and his boss’s wife and their attempts to cover their tracks by involving a third couple.
Even setting the farce in the United States and not using British accents, the play offers enough challenges, according to Abendshein.
“Probably the greatest one is getting the pacing right,” he said. “It needs to move at a breakneck speed.”
On the other hand, one point of satisfaction of “How the Other Half Loves” is its strong female characters.
“They’re very strong, opinionated and outspoken,” Abendshein said. “They’re not all nice, but they are smart. The whole show is a power struggle between men and women and between couples.”
One of the female characters, Mary, is played by Elizabeth (Liz) Weiss, who started her community theater experience at the age of 12 at Montgomery Playhouse.
“After that, I was hooked,” she said.
“(“How the Other Half Loves” is) so much fun that we were laughing through most of our rehearsals,” Weiss said. “It’s funny and unexpected and quick-witted from the beginning, as Alan Ayckbourn is known for.”
Plus, the intimate size of the cast makes for easy and quick bonding, she added.
When she auditioned, Weiss knew there were two characters she could play, who are complete opposites. She was hoping for “hot-headed and passionate” Terry but instead was cast as the “quiet and mousy but kind” Mary.
“Despite that, Mary is a huge comic point of the show; something, I’m excited about,” Weiss said. “She is also completely out of my type. I tend to play characters with emotional and explosive moments.”
Also, during the resolution of the show Mary comes into her own, Weiss said.
“We see with the other two couples that there are many issues in their marriages and that they are lacking some important parts of their relationships,” she said. “Mary and her husband William are pretty well matched…Together, they have a very sweet, honest relationship. As the play progresses, Mary is becoming more her own person, and for me, that’s quite satisfying.”
The performance will come as the theater prepares to turn 90-years-old this year. In a county rich of entertainment options, Montgomery Playhouse claims the title of the longest continuous running community theater, said David Jones, the theater’s executive producer.
Over time, the Playhouse has presented in various locations; now it’s performing home is the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg.
Over time, too, the Playhouse incorporated another group: the Kensington Garrett Park Players.
“We’ve always been blessed with extremely talented people on the acting and technical side,” Jones said. “We’ve won several WATCH (Washington Area Theatre Community Honors) Awards, for community theater performances.”
Montgomery Playhouse is celebrating its birthday with a special performance of “How the Other Half Loves” on Saturday, June 8, from 6:30-11:30. There will be festivities before and wine and cake after the performance.
The play runs three weekends from June 7-23, at Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg.