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How To Be An Other Woman

Lorrie Moore, adapted and directed by Natalie Abrahami
Gate Theatre, Notting Hill
(2010)

Production photo

Charlene is An Other Woman. In New York speak, this means that she is having an affair with a married man.

In a mere 20 pages at the start of her 1985 collection, Self-Help, Lorrie Moore tells an old, old story. She does so in a manner that is almost unintentionally witty drawing on the language of an instruction manual.

While that makes for a great read it is not an obvious candidate for a stage adaptation.

That is where the Gate's Joint Artistic Director Natalie Abrahami and her creative team step in and illuminate the tale using dance, movement, contemporary love songs and a stylish concept that serves their purpose perfectly.

Ronald Reagan's America of the early 1980s is conjured up by designer Samal Blak's spare setting in an ethereal but ridiculously trendy and clearly incredibly expensive boutique.

There, a quartet of identically dressed actresses happily swap roles every couple of minutes. Most of the time, the one in the beige raincoat is Charlene, the one in the hat, her lover, while the remaining pair fill other roles such as the wife, parents and sympathetic colleague as well as chorus.

From an opening pick-up outside the shop window of Florsheim's flagship Manhattan store, the simple story intrigues.

The love on one side is patently not reciprocated and all of the traditional sentiments follow. This means that the actresses between them cover excitement, lust, hope, pride, fear, anguish, acceptance and moving on.

The synthesis of Charlene's experience with carefully choreographed movement and many gently telling flourishes comments wryly but perceptively on the topic.

With the assistance of the four talented actresses, Faye Castellow, Samantha Pearl, Ony Uhiara and Cath Whitefield who work wonderfully as a team, plus choreographer Aline David, Natalie Abrahmi has somehow created a really enjoyable evening from the slimmest of material.

By the end, you really feel as if you have been through the heady pleasures and mental turmoil of a New York affair, all in just an hour.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher