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Drama at ‘Separate Tables’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Loneliness can drive people into states of desperation.

Playwright Terence Rattigan explored that despair by weaving two interlinked one-act plays. The result was “Separate Tables,” opening Friday, Oct. 5, at North 4th Art Center.

“Someone asked me what’s the theme of the play,” director James Cady said. “I guess you could start with love and attempted murder.”

The lounge of a small hotel on the south coast of Britain provides the setting. The two leads land in the seedy residential hotel stranded like beached whales. Most of its residents are pensioners who have downsized their lives into separate lonely tables.

A faded beauty named Ann arrives hoping to reconcile with her ex-husband John.

“He went to prison for four years because he had tried to kill her,” Cady said. “Another four years has passed and they meet each other in this hotel.

“He’s a resident there,” Cady continued. “He’s a journalist, probably a pretty good one, but he’s got a drinking problem. And she’s a congenital liar.

“Together they’re destroying each other and apart they’ll destroy themselves.”

In the second part, “Table Number Seven,” the same actors return as the shifty Major Pollock and the spinster daughter of the hotel proprietress.

“She adores the major because they can go on walks and talk,” Cady said.

But it turns out the major has been lying about his World War II service for years; he actually worked as a mere pencil-pusher.

“He’s been ousted for ‘nudging’ women in darkened movie theaters,” Cady added.

The major’s fellow residents subject him to a McCarthy-style witch hunt. But dowdy daughter Sybil defends him.

“There’s so much depth going on in these plays, it’s almost like (the playwright Harold) Pinter,” Cady added. “It has that galloping British style that Americans have come to adore.”

“Separate Tables” stars H.K. Phillips and Matthew Van Wettering.

The 1958 film starred Burt Lancaster, David Niven, Deborah Kerr and Rita Hayworth.