Watching Martin LaPlatney and Susan Greenhill perform on stage as a married couple isn’t at all a stretch. They’ll be no problem with the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
A “couple” for nearly 20 years and husband and wife for the past two months, LaPlatney and Greenhill play the two lead roles in “Falling: A Wake,” a new work by Canadian playwright Gary Kirkham. It previews Wednesday and Thursday at Stageworks-Hudson, opens Friday night, and continues through Sept. 28.
LaPlatney and Greenhill play Harold and Elsie, a retired couple whose lives are transformed by the appearance of a quiet stranger. The play, directed by Stageworks-Hudson’s founder and artistic director Laura Margolis, is an American premiere and was originally produced in 2007 at the Lost and Found Theatre in Ontario.
“The first time I read this, I said, ‘this guy can really write,’ “said LaPlatney, whose vast resumé includes plenty of television work, as well as four appearances on Broadway, most recently in “Hedda Gabbler” in 2002. “It’s a very touching play, very moving, and there are parts that are quite serious and others that are quite funny. I think that was what I really liked about it. It wasn’t just a comedy or a drama. It’s in between.”
’Falling: A Wake’
WHERE: Max and Lillian Katzman Theatre, Stageworks-Hudson, 41-A Cross St., Hudson
WHEN: Previews 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; opens 8 p.m. Friday and runs through Sept. 28, Saturday show times at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $27 to $16
MORE INFO: 822-9667
Not surprisingly, Greenhill liked the play for the same reasons.
“It’s funny one minute and then serious the next, sort of like life that way,” she said. “I think it’s really good writing, and I love the relationship between the husband and wife. You really get interested in the couple and you want to see what happens next.”
Working with playwright
Greenhill, who also has a Broadway credential on her resumé (“Crimes of the Heart” 1983), said the opportunity to work on a play with the playwright at rehearsal was a refreshing change.
“Gary was here the first couple of days of rehearsal, and it was fabulous to have a living playwright sitting there with you watching things,” said Greenhill. “To be able to ask him what he was thinking and talk about a scene and get his ideas was fascinating.”
The experience was also an enjoyable one for Kirkham, whose 2005 work, “Queen Milli of Galt,” won the Samuel French Playwriting Competition.
“Being a playwright of a new work is much like being a father whose daughter is bringing her boyfriend home for the first time,” said Kirkham. “You are excited and nervous about meeting the director and actors, but I quickly realized the play was in good hands. Laura and I have had some wonderful and insightful discussions about the script, and her questions have led me to look at the play and the characters from fresh new angles.”
That’s not to say the play is changing considerably, having already been selected as Favorite Play of the Year by Canada’s Echo Magazine. Set on a farm just outside a small town on a starry evening, Harold and Elsie usually spend their nights wisecracking at each other, but on this one particular evening that all changes.
“Gary takes his characters on a journey through one of life’s biggest mysteries with deep understanding, sensitivity and, most of all, humor, and in doing so, has created the kind of experience that audiences will take home with them,” said Margolis. “We are thrilled to be producing the American premiere of Gary’s funny, moving and exhilarating play.”
LaPlatney is making his debut at the Max and Lillian Katzman Theatre, while Greenhill worked at Stageworks-Hudson in 2004 in the production of “Omnium Gatherum.”
“It’s great getting the opportunity to work together, and we actually played a married couple in the first play that we ever worked together 20 years ago,” said LaPlatney. “It’s nice to get away from New York now and then and so far this has been a lovely place to work. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Greenhill was also happy to have an opportunity to head out on the road with her husband, but they’re not always a package deal.
“I told Laura that she should see my partner. So it was very nice of her to hire the two of us,” said Greenhill. “But we were auditioning for a play a while ago and the people there didn’t know we were a couple. It was funny. The director said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, they just don’t seem right together.’ We just kind of laughed it off.”
Enjoying their lives
Both Greenhill and her husband grew up in the New York City area and both have been able to make a living as a professional actor.
“I’ve acted my whole life, and my husband and I like to call ourselves middle-class actors,” said Greenhill, who attended the University of Rochester and the University of Pennsylvania before getting her Master of Fine Arts degree from Catholic University. “We’re not famous; so we do have a real life, but we don’t have to do anything else but act. We worry about paying the bills, but we get to travel a little bit and work and then come back to New York. I love it.”
So does LaPlatney.
“I try to stay close to New York, but I basically like my life exactly the way it is right now,” said LaPlatney, who in 2005 was in a two-person play, “Two Can Play,” with Hayley Mills in Kansas City. “I also direct, but I do more acting than directing and that’s the way I like it. Sometimes, it’s nice to direct, but the director has to make most of the decisions. I prefer just making the acting decisions.”
The third person making up the cast of “Falling: A Wake” is University at Albany student Kyle Filiault. A Long Island native, Filiault is performing in his first professional production.