How much did a woman’s role change between 1970 and 2005?
James Sherman explores that topic in his 2006 play, “Half and Half,” and this month at The Theater Barn in New Lebanon, Phil Rice and Erin Waterhouse are putting their own spin on subjects like gender role and marriage.
Rice, a former Shaker High English teacher, is directing this staging of Sherman’s work for The Theater Barn, and Waterhouse, a native of Milford, Conn., is one of three actors making up the cast.
The show is divided into two acts, each set in different time periods. Waterhouse plays two different mothers, one from 1970 in Act One, and another mother from 2005 in Act Two.
“I think it’s interesting to look at the roles of men and women over the years, and for me to play two different characters in the same play is great fun,” said Waterhouse, a graduate of The College of Saint Rose and one of the area’s busiest and most sought-after actors.
‘Half and Half’
WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Rt. 20, New Lebanon
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 21
HOW MUCH: $25-$23
MORE INFO: 794-8989, www.theaterbarn.com
“Especially two distinctly different characters in one two-hour setting. It’s fun for me to look at those two women, see the roles they were handed, and then the decisions they made to change them.”
Joining Waterhouse on stage are Albany’s Tony Pallone, who plays the father in each act, and New York City-based actress Teresa Whitt, who plays the teenage daughter in both acts.
“The tension in the play really comes from the father,” said Rice, who directed “You Should Be So Lucky” at Theater Barn earlier this year.
“The father in the 1970s sees himself as the ‘Ward Cleaver’ or ‘Father Knows Best’ character, and his wife is getting all caught up in the Earth Day movement and women’s liberation. What I liked about this play is that it’s a comedy, but it has some real poignancy to it. The people are very real, they’re believable and I think the audience will connect with them.”
“Half and Half” was first produced in the Chicago area in 2006 and drew many favorable reviews. Its small cast also persuaded Rice and Theater Barn producer Joan Phelps to put in on their 2014 schedule.
“Joan usually sends me a bunch of scripts, I usually read about a half dozen or so, and then we sit down and decide what we want to do,” said Rice.
“We usually open the season with a farce, and then we look for a good comedy in the fall to end the season. We both really liked the play, and it’s a small cast which really is attractive this time of the year.”
Rice also had Waterhouse in mind to play the two mothers. She made her Theater Barn debut earlier this summer in “You Should Be So Lucky,” but Rice was well aware of her work long before this year.
“This is her first summer at The Barn, but I’ve always liked her work,” he said. “I was very happy to finally get her to come out here.”
Waterhouse has been a pretty busy actress since immersing herself into the local community theater scene back in 2007. In the last three seasons alone she has performed at Capital Repertory Theatre, Curtain Call Theatre, Schenectady Light Opera Company and the Schenectady Civic Playhouse.
“They do a fantastic job here at The Theater Barn,” she said. “It’s a professional theater company, you know exactly when to rehearse and exactly what’s expected of you, and it’s great to work with professionals from New York City. It’s been a short rehearsal period so you really have to work together to learn the show. Things are done really quickly, but in the theater we seem to rise to the occasion.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]