The Constant Wife
Now on its second week at the Stanley Industrial Stage, The Constant Wife continues to bring laughter to center stage. Directed by Morris Panych, The Constant Wife is a traditional yet hilarious look at marriage, trust, loyalty, betrayal and payback. CJSF correspondent Anna Santiago who had a chance to see the play on February 01st had this to say:
Set in 1934, The Constant Wife is the story of the triumph, self-awareness and independence of Constance Middleton played by Nicole Underhay. Constance has been married to a wealthy doctor, John (Ted Cole), for fifteen years. Marriage according to Constance is all about economics so despite John’s affair with her closest friend, Marie Louise (Celine Stubel), Constance is determined to stay married to John and continue living her life as “the prostitute who doesn’t deliver the goods”. In a surprising twist, Constance declares that she has known about the affair all along but “vanity takes over your reasoning” and Constance chose economic security over truth.
While the play is still enjoyable to watch on a Saturday afternoon, time has changed. In today’s world, I doubt that a woman scorned like Constance will take such a betrayal as nonchalantly as she did. While Underhay’s performance was endearing and humorous, the character itself lacks substance right from the beginning. Thankfully, the revelation of John and Marie-Louise’s affair gave Constance’s character some depth. As a result of the exposure of the affair, we see our heroine finally making a mark on stage by declaring her independence through working and earning her own means.
However, throughout the play we fail to see any confrontation neither between John and Constance nor between Constance and Marie Louise. Instead we stumble upon a calm, yet sometimes sarcastic and superficial, philanderer’s wife. Constance’s reaction itself is unrealistic but perhaps playwright Somerset Maugham’s purpose is to convince the women at the time that the value of marriage itself can only be measured by economics and not love, honesty nor commitment. As part of the audience, it is difficult for me to agree with how Constance and this whole play dealt with infidelity. As a woman, it is even more difficult for me to relate and accept a heroine who allows everyone to think of her as foolish and ignorant of what is happening around her.
Despite his attempts to save Constance’s character from being ostensibly weak and indifferent, I think Maugham has failed to establish this heroine as someone admirable or remarkable. While the end of this play sees Constance being in charge of her own life and her husband’s as well, I think the damage to her character is irrevocable. It is unfortunate to see a fallen heroine and a playwright trying to restore her character into someone much stronger and more commendable.
The Constant Wife continues its run at the Stanley Industrial Stage until February 22nd. For show times and more information, check out www.artsclub.ca.