Last night, my wife and I went to the Walnut Street Theatre to see The Constant Wife by Somerset Maugham. I’m a Maughan fan. I know that many, especially academic, critics look down on him and his work, but I always find myself, after reading Maugham, better able to tolerate the weaknesses and foibles of my fellow humans — and even my own. I think his short stories are marvelous.
The Constant Wife proved to be a constant delight. If more plays like it were staged I’d go to the theater more often. As it is, just about the only contemporary playwright who can get to cough up the price of a ticket is Tom Stoppard.
The production at the Walnut, directed by Malcolm Black, is first-rate. Especially good were Nancy Dussault as Mrs. Culver, Alicia Roper as Constance Middleton (the wife of the title) and Greg Wood as her husband, John. Constance’s sister and mother and a friend have just learned that John is having an affair with Constance’s best friend. The sister especially feels Constance should know. Turns out, though, she already does.
Except for the manners and dress, the play could have been written last week. The dialogue sparkles from start to finish. It makes fun of social conventions, but never sermonizes (unlike so much contemporary drama).
If the Walnut stages more Maugham, they may rest assured that I’ll be there. Wouldn’t mind seeing some Terence Rattigan, either. And something by Ibsen besides Hedda Gabler and A Doll’s House. Actually, I’d love to see The Master Builder.