The Odd Couple

HatTheatre readies “The Roommate,” a play billed as “The Odd Couple” meets “Breaking Bad.”

Next month, Jen Silverman’s play “The Roommate” will have its Broadway debut starring Mia Farrow and Patti LuPone. For Richmonders, the play will be old Hat by then.

This weekend, HatTheatre will premiere its own two-week production of the play starring local actresses Catherine Shaffner and Kelly Kennedy.

The play concerns two women who strike up an unlikely friendship in middle age. Sharon is a recently divorced homemaker in Iowa who puts out an ad for a roommate to share her old farmhouse. Robyn, a woman in the Bronx looking for a fresh start, answers the ad and relocates to live with her. Hijinks ensue from there.

“It’s about two vastly different characters in different places in their lives,” explains director Julie Fulcher-Davis. “They’re both searching for something, and in the unfolding of the story, you take all of these twists and turns.”

A longtime fan of the script, Shaffner says she immediately connected with the role of Sharon.

“I remember finishing it and saying out loud to no one but my cats, ‘I have to play this woman,’” says Shaffner, who relishes playing someone from the Midwest. “I come from Michigan farm stock. This gal is from Iowa, but same worldview.”

Shaffner lauds Silverman, a writer who has worked on TV shows like “Tales of the City” and “Tokyo Vice,” and penned the play “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties; In Essence, A Queer And Occasionally Hazardous Exploration; Do You Remember When You Were In Middle School And You Read About Shackleton And How He Explored The Antarctic?; Imagine The Antarctic As A Pussy And It’s Sort Of Like That” that Richmond Triangle Players staged two years ago.

“She’s phenomenal,” Shaffner says. “She writes the way people talk. I don’t think there’s a complete sentence anywhere in the play.”

Though the two-hander is billed as “The Odd Couple” meets “Breaking Bad,” Shaffner stresses that the show is a dark comedy.

“It’s really funny,” she says. “Laugh your ass off and then get punched in the gut. I couldn’t love it more.”

Kennedy, who portrays Robyn, says her part is essentially playing the “straight man” to Shaffner’s role.

“The humor comes from the real humanity of these two people who ultimately reveal themselves to each other,” Kennedy says. “It is not what it seems on the face of it. It’s complicated in a lot of ways, but fun.”

Through the course of the show, Robyn’s background gradually comes into focus.

“She’s not forthcoming about her past,” says Kennedy of her character. “You get the idea that she has some shady goings-on in the past. But she’s very self-sufficient, self-contained, ready to bolt at a moment’s notice.”

Asked why audiences should come see the show, Fulcher-Davis brags about her cast.

“The biggest selling point is the performers,” Fulcher-Davis says. “When you have such proficient actors, the material in their hands, it just really becomes something quite extraordinary.”

Noting that she, Kennedy and Fulcher-Davis have been friends and theater artists together in Richmond for more than 40 years, Shaffner says the show benefits from the closeness of their collaboration.

“It’s just been really grand working with them and putting this together,” she says. “If heart and experience and skill count for anything, there’s been a lot of that involved in this production.”

“The Roommate” runs July 12-21 at HatTheatre, 1124 Westbriar Dr. For more information, visit hattheatre.org or call 804-343-6364.

TRENDING

WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW — straight to your inbox

* indicates required
Our mailing lists: