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‘Living Together,’ Unhappy Ever After

In Alan Ayckbourn’s “Living Together” at the Fremont Centre Theatre, Rhys Pugh’s assistant librarian, Norman, is less a charming schemer than a handsome opportunist of nominal intelligence.

Under Stephen Rockwell’s direction, this piece--part of Ayckbourn’s “Norman Conquest” trilogy--isn’t a laugh-out-loud comedy, but a tidy production about a thoroughly untidy set of relations.

Ayckbourn’s trilogy follows Norman’s thwarted attempt to steal away with his unmarried sister-in-law, who needs a respite from being the principal caretaker for Norman’s unpleasant though unseen mother-in-law. Each play follows concurrent events, revealing only parts of the whole story but involving all the same unhappy characters.

Annie (Melanie Rockwell) is the drab sister, doomed for spinsterhood or marriage to the dull and dim local vet, Tom (Robert Pescovitz), as she cares for her psychosomatically ill mother. She’s asked her brother Reg (Michael Langley) and his wife, no-nonsense, grimly methodical Sarah (Cynthia Gates Fujikawa), to relieve her so she can take a weekend off.

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When Annie backs out of her weekend fling with Norman, Norman decides to stick around, getting drunk on dandelion wine and ringing up his attractive, career-minded wife, Ruth (Robbie Troy).

Pugh’s Norman is a man who practices an artless form of seduction based on his good looks, dogged persistence and shamelessness. Stephen Rockwell’s directorial vision is of normal people, repressed and sleepwalking through life, with Norman disturbing the otherwise calm waters by following a libido unharnessed by morality.

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* “Living Together,” Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Aug. 15. $15. (626) 441-5977; (888) 441-5979. Running time: 2 hours.

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