The Constant Wife

  • Date:
    June 1, 2005
    Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Written by: W. Somerset Maugham.
    Directed by: Mark Brokaw.
    Cast: Kate Burton (Constance Middleton), Lynn Redgrave (Mrs. Culver), Michael Cumpsty (John Middleton), John Dossett as (Bernard Kersal), Enid Graham (Martha), Kathryn Meisle (Marie-Louise ), Denis Homes (Bentley), John Ellison Conlee (Mortimer Durham)and Kathleen McNenney (Barbara Fawcett).
    Synopsis: The Constant Wife is a social comedy of marital maneuvers in 1920s upper-class London. Constance Middleton discovers that her husband is having an affair with her best friend. Rather than humiliating herself and others, she denies the affair, defends the two, and sets about turning bad luck, unfaithful friends, local gossip and a broken heart to her own advantage.

    Polly Wittenberg's Review.

    I�m sure that there are plenty of people who could have lived without the British class system, but the world of drawing room comedy would surely have been the poorer if there�d been no system of stiff upper lips. A case in point: The Roundabout�s delightful new revival of Somerset Maugham�s The Constant Wife.

    This production has an absolutely gorgeous set by Allen Moyer, a perfect blending of the gilt and orientalia that was characteristic of the period. The costumes, by Michael Krass, are perfect too.

    Before seeing the show, I was a bit skeptical about what the acting would be like. After all, the two female actors heading the cast are scions of British acting royalty and we all know what the watering down of such genes can lead to. But I needn�t have worried. Both Burton and Redgrave seem to have been blessed with good comic timing. At least we can credit director Mark Brokaw with bringing out such qualities. And then there is Cumpsty, not one who usually impresses me in a positive way. Here he�s just fine playing a pompous ass!

    An enjoyable evening.


    What the critics had to say.....

    CHARLES ISHERWOOD of the NEW YORK TIMES says �.... an elaborate comic trifle, all glittering surface shellacking an emotional void.�
    HOWARD KISSEL of NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says "It is stimulating as well as enormously entertaining."
    CLIVE BARNES of NEW YORK POST says "As the philosopher said, "The more things change, the more they remain the same. So it is with Maugham's sparkling comedy of ill manners."
    ELYSA GARDNER of USA Today "Burton's latest witty, wily woman is rather an elegant pragmatist and a perfect foil for the self-righteous society gals and foolish but innocuous hypocrites who pop up in Maugham's satire of highbrow domesticity."
    MICHAEL SOMMERS of STAR-LEDGER says "A scintillating sin-and-sherry British comedy from 1926, "The Constant Wife" is a delightful summer confection. "
    LINDA WINER of NEWSDAY says "Where has this Maugham been all our lives? Please, more."
    FRANK SCHECK of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says "Featuring wonderfully entertaining performances by a first-rate cast and wittily bitchy dialogue that easily bears comparison to Oscar Wilde, should prove a summer winner for the Roundabout Theatre Company."

    External links to full reviews from newspapers:
    New York Times
    New York Daily News
    New York Post
    USA Today
    Hollywood Reporter