‘Constant Wife’ delivers constant laughter

On Feb. 14, a 1920s British living room took up residence in the Don Evans Black Box Theater. 1920s-style music played lightly in the background and audience members, both young and old, spoke in hushed voices, almost afraid to break the spell the small theater was under: the spell of “The Constant Wife,” Shakespeare ’70’s newest undertaking at the College.

Opening night is always exciting and Thursday’s performance was no different as the crowd filled the seats in waves, quietly chattering in anticipation of the performance. As soon as Tracy Hawkins, portraying Mrs. Culver, walked onto the stage, the previous spell was broken, and a new one cast: that of the story of Constance Middleton, a woman in her late 30s who discovers her husband is having an affair, and does nothing but attempt to hold their marriage together, but not for the reasons one would think.

“It’s nice having a man around the house – it’s nice to have someone to tell you you’re quite right when you know you’re . quite wrong,” Mrs. Culver said.

Quips and subtle moments like this saturated the characters’ conversations. A particular highlight was the moment when John, Constance’s cheating husband, walked in and asked Mrs. Culver, “Ah, how’s my mother-in-law?”

And she firmly answers, “Mother-in-lawish.”

While the play was a company effort, a few of the actors’ performances stuck out from the crowd. Carol Thompson was a pure joy as Constace. She is one of those actresses who delivers a line and it takes the audience a moment to realize it’s a terribly funny joke because she said it with such a straight face.

“I think husbands and wives tell each other far too much nowadays,” she said after discovering her husband’s infidelity.

Her stage presence and smile lightened an already luminous play.

George Hartpence, playing Carol Thompson’s husband John Middleton, was funniest when he wasn’t speaking. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then his facial expressions are worth a million.

Tracy Hawkins was the perfect sarcastic but caring mother as Mrs. Culver. She had some of the best lines in the play, including her philosophy on telling whether one is in love with a man or not: “Could you use his toothbrush?”

Recent College graduate Gina Yanuzzi, who played Martha Culver, Constance’s unruly but worried sister, was annoying enough to leave little doubt that she was, in fact, Constance’s little sister. Meanwhile Heather Duncan, sophomore English major, didn’t have a large role as the Middletons’ maid, Edith, but her scene dragging luggage across the floor was one of the funniest in the play.

“The Constant Wife” is playing at the Black Box Theater on Feb. 21 through 23 at 8 p.m. and on Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. With its subtle humor and cultural references, it is admittedly not for everyone. But anyone who enjoys tongue-in-cheek period plays about manners and motives should definitely check out this piece.