“Mother, you’re not exactly a feminist, are you?”
When the lives of a prestigious British family in 1940 are rocked by an extramarital affair, the characters of Somerset Maugham’s “The Constant Wife” are left to debate where the lines fall between what is acceptable and for whom.
On April 28 through May 1, the Emporia State Theatre Department will be performing “The Constant Wife” in Karl C. Bruder Theatre for audiences to decide for themselves whose side they’re on. The show will feature nine cast members and run two and a half hours including two intermissions.
Logan Trask, freshman theater major, plays John, the “suave surgeon,” and describes it as “almost like an 80s rom-com.” At the end of the show, the cast comes out in sunglasses and Constance gives a Farris Buhler-like nod to the crowd.
“It’s very like ‘13 Candles,’ ‘Breakfast Club,’” Trask said. “I think it’s a good little small touch that didn’t have to be added, but man does it add something that just keeps people on their toes and that’s great, I love it.”
The show is an “art of conversation” looking into the way different characters in 1940s London react to John having an affair with his wife Constance’s best friend, according to Dennis Turney Jr, director of the show and assistant professor of communication and theatre. To bring it into the modern day, Turney added nods to the 80s through makeup, decor, music.
“I use a lot of 80s music in it,” said Turney. “Because I think of the 80s when I think of a time where we’re just going to have a party or have a lark and I think in a way that’s what the play is, I don’t think Maugham is wanting you to go away and think about this so hard, he wants you to laugh.”
While the subject of extramarital affairs can be a heated and argumentative subject, the characters approach it with poise and eloquence. This takes the show out of true realism and merges it into the realm of artistic conversation, according to Turney.
“Think about any big, hot topic today, there’s several,” Turney said. “Can you imagine two people who are on opposite sides of it, whatever that hot topic is, really sitting down and having a calm (conversation)? No, it’s hard to see it.”
When Constance, played by Christine Pascoe, finds out her husband is cheating on her with her best friend, she doesn’t react how many may expect.
“I love how sort of just smart, cool, calm and collected she is,” said Pascoe, senior theater major. “Like she never yells, she’s never angry, she always keeps her cool, she’s always got a plan, she’s like 10 steps ahead of everybody else all the time but she never lets anybody know.”
While the play tackles a potentially serious subject, it is still written to be a comedy.
“It’s not a show that people would actively go out and see,” Trask said. “You’re not seeing a ‘Les Mis’ or a ‘Phantom’ or a ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or ‘All my Sons,’ Arthur Miller, but you’re going to go see it because it’s well we have a fantastic cast, it’s awesome, but it’s small humor. It’s very dry, small little jokes, and I personally love it. I know people will love it and I know they’ll go home and just think about those things and then they’ll get it.”