There aren’t many plays that revolve around two middle-aged women, with no other characters joining them onstage. But that’s exactly what happens in “The Roommate,” a dark comedy currently at Capital Stage in Sacramento.
“The Roommate” is about two single women in their 50s who strike up an unlikely alliance. Sharon, who has been living quietly for most of her life in a small city in Iowa, is demure and a bit square. As the play begins, she is opening her home for the somewhat mysterious Robyn.
Robyn hails from the Bronx and possesses a street-savvy independence that Sharon, something of a wallflower, finds fascinating. The differences between the two become immediately apparent as they discuss preparing meals.
Sharon: OK, we can divide up the refrigerator and the pantry shelves, depending on what and when you cook.
Robyn: Well, I’m a vegan.
Sharon. OK! OK!
Robyn: No animal products.
Sharon: OK, so like no meat.
Robyn: Nope, no meat.
Sharon: Uh, or, no eggs.
Robyn: That would be an animal product.
The women confide in each other, and Sharon becomes so curious about Robyn’s life that she peeks inside a box of her belongings. In the box, Sharon finds multiple driver’s licenses with different names.
Robyn is not amused when she realizes that Sharon has been going through her things.
Sharon: I’m sorry, it’s not like you shouldn’t have so many driver’s licenses, but also, why do you have them?
Robyn: Because. Because I do. I, I collect them.
Sharon: But they’re all pictures of you, with different names, and different addresses, and different birthdays.
Robyn: Did you examine every single one of them?
As it turns out, there are several secrets in Robyn’s past. And as this dark comedy goes on, this play that began rather like the 1965 comedy “The Odd Couple” turns into a darker story more like 1991’s “Thelma and Louise.”
The cast features experienced performers like Sacramento’s Jamie Jones and the Bay Area’s Laura Jane Bailey, who do a fine job fleshing out the unlikely relationship between these two women. The actresses illuminate their differences as well as the things they have in common, like their somewhat bumpy relationships with their adult children.
Director Dena Martinez keeps any cuteness from getting into this story. Instead, she doubles down on Sharon’s growing determination to do a makeover of her life and Robyn’s desire to maintain her privacy and continue as a free-agent moving almost invisibly through life.
“The Roommate” is a very interesting show, and a change-up from the other plays that this company has done recently. Capital Stage seems to move from strength to strength, even as they take on different kinds of scripts.
“The Roommate” continues at Capital Stage in Sacramento through July 21.
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