If you’ve ever wanted to see a semi-lame TV sitcom performed live on stage, you’ll want to check out Hale Center Theater Orem’s “The Other Side of Love.”
Written by the venerable Ruth Hale, this family comedy set in the ’50s features overly precocious children, stock characters and situations, and set-up/punch line exchanges that shouldn’t make anyone laugh. (Example: “She’s got a real cool personality.” “Yeah, she’s so cool she’s below freezing.” Cue laugh track.)
The crisis at hand is that teen-age daughter Holly (Kathy Wahlquist) is dating a guy from the “wrong side of the tracks,” a hoodlum named Bill (Ryan Radebaugh) who, naturally, wears a leather jacket. Her father (John Paulk) is against it; her mother (Tani Radebaugh) is a bit more understanding.
Meanwhile, though, Holly is also hanging out with a girl named Chris (Ashley Radebaugh), the only interesting character in the play, whose language and leg-wrestling Mother finds objectionable, while Father thinks they should cut her some slack.
There’s also a teen-age son, Dick (Jason Purdie), whose girlfriend Audrey (Katie Purdie) is the aforementioned frozen one. As soon as we meet her, we see how generically snooty she is, and if we’ve watched even one minute of TV in our lives, we know she’s going to be dumped so that Dick can pursue his sister’s friend Chris instead.
Oh, and there’s that obnoxious little sister, Lanis (Jessica Paulk), a role that is written so that you never want to stop smacking her. (Kudos to young Paulk, probably a very sweet girl in real life, for pulling this one off.)
Ruth Hale herself plays hoodlum Bill’s grandmother, whom our family invites over for dinner so they can learn more about Bill’s background. Audiences coo when she comes onstage; the woman has earned her reputation as Utah’s theatrical sweetheart. She makes up for frequently forgetting her lines by sweetly making ad-libs about her bad memory.
Let’s face it, though, her plays tend to be like this one: predictable, sitcom-y, broadly written, and with dialogue that no one would ever say. (One character actually refers to kisses as “busses” in this play.)
Until we actually meet Bill, we tend to agree with Holly that her parents are being over-protective, perhaps even snobby — especially since they keep focusing on his social status, when the real issue is that he’s an abusive jerk (a fact Holly’s parents are unaware of). Then we meet him and hate him. The message? Listen to your parents, they know love better than you do, even if they disapprove of the guy for the wrong reasons. Realistic, maybe, but drearily unromantic.
Traditional ’50s blandness mixed with the occasional laugh and warm heart is what to expect from “The Other Side of Love.” It’s written poorly, but performed with sincerity, and it’s undeniably (and perhaps undeservedly) a crowd-pleaser.
If you're seeing a Ruth Hale-written play, you know you're in for some sitcom-style jokes, predictable plotting and characters, and some outright weirdness. This play did not disappoint on any of those counts.
Ruth Hale is a sweet old lady. Somehow, in the grand scheme of things, I'm sure this excuses her from having to know her lines for a small role in a play she wrote and directed herself.