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Theatre Review: ‘When We Are Married’ Takes the Stage

When We Are Married

J.R. Priestley’s When We Are Married is a comedy that follows three very different couples as they deal with the same shocking news: they may not actually be married. In a world where respectability and class are paramount, this table-turning twist pays off over three acts as each couple grapples with new-found freedom from matrimony. As new information is revealed, it’s unclear which is least acceptable to to each couple — their public or private status change.

DCTC Shakes Holiday Season Up with “Married’

HE SAID: When We Are Married seemed an interesting choice for this time of year, given it is not holiday fare, which is made more interesting given it’s a British play written in the early 1900’s. Well, for me, the “risk” paid off. The script does feel aged in points and there are some scenes that don’t seem to contribute much to the story or characters, but the comedic pay off is large in this production. An oddly, there is a coziness and old-fashioned appeal to the play that seems to fit right in for the holidays.

SHE SAID: Although this play is not done very often, it has a very familiar feel — a one-room British situational comedy, complete with nosy servants, multiple exits and entrances, and plenty of tension as the characters struggle to keep their true feelings respectfully bottled up. J.R. Priestly wrote this before comedies of this type became so fast-paced that actors required cardio training just to endure technical rehearsals, and so to the modern ear, it feels a little bit slow. In addition to the relatively reasonable pace, it is also a little less tight than audiences today are accustomed to — it opens a few doors that aren’t closed entirely neatly by the final curtain. That being said, it is still quite satisfying as a piece of theater, because it’s engaging, heart-warming and funny.

Best Story Revolves Around ‘Married’ Couples

When We Are Married

(L to R) John Hutton, Sam Gregory, and Larry Paulsen in When We Are Married shortly after they find out they have not actually been married to their respective wives for the last 25 years.

HE SAID: The show definitely had a great pace when the central plot and relationships were being set up and unraveled. It was fascinating to watch each person process the information that they have not actually been married to their partner for the last 25 years – especially Jeanne Paulsen, Sam Gregory, and Kathleen McCall. Those three played the more submissive role in their respective relationships, so seeing them contemplate what their new found single life means was exciting and hilarious. It was when we got away from the central couples, into the subplots, that the story began to drag and at times I was left wondering why certain scenes were even in the script as they seemed to advance little in terms of story or character development.

SHE SAID: I agree that the play worked best whenever the plot was dancing around the three central couples. The first half of the first act did a great job of setting up the slightly annoyed complacency of a long marriage (or at least I hear that this is accurate). This made it incredibly satisfying when the three characters you mention were given a small taste of freedom. Of the three, Sam Gregory as Herbert Soppitt enjoyed the biggest comic payoff, while McCall had a more subtle re-evaluation of her relationship. I found her transformation to be the most compelling, and I actually wished that the play took more time on how she resolved these new feelings. Other stand-out performances were Kathleen M. Brady and Sarah Manton, who found a great balance between believability and spot-on comedic character performances.

Scene Set Well for ‘Married’

HE SAID: I was a little worried that there would have been bigger issues with the specific regional dialect in this play (Northern English, aside from the one London dialect). However, there were only a few people that seemed to be inconsistent with the rest of the cast and occasionally made the lines difficult to understand. For the most part, though, the cast seemed at ease with the challenge. 

When We Are Married

(L to R) Jeanne Paulsen, Katherine McCall, Leslie O’Carroll react as Katherine Brady’s character shares the news that they are not the “respectable” women they think they are.

SHE SAID: The dialects took a while to get used to — you’re definitely right that they didn’t get in the way of understanding the dialogue, but it would have been an even gentler transition if they were more even across the different cast members — some used the dialect quite strongly and consistently, and others seemed to drop it entirely or fade and in and out. The single location allowed for a beautiful period set design — it was the kind of set that was so realistic I could vividly picture the other rooms in the home that the actors were exiting into and entering from.

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DCTC’s ‘Married’ Warms the Heart This Holiday Season

THEY SAID: If you are burnt out on holiday theatre offerings, but still want something old-fashioned, traditional and touching, this might be a good choice for you. Some fantastic talent make up the entire cast and, while it might seem to be slow at points, they bring some seriously hearty laughs throughout the entire show. And while we thought this show would be just for the married folk, there was a large group of teens present the night we went and all of them seemed to enjoy themselves, too. They even joined in with the rest of the audience when asked to sing along at the end of the show. It is an old-fashioned show, which can hit and miss with certain audiences, but for us it hit our funny bones and filled us with warmth.


When We Are Married plays until December 16 at The Stage Theater, Denver Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, click the banner.

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