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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: February 12, 2018

‘The Roommate’ at Portland Stage features meaty roles for women

Written by: Bob Keyes

Janice O’Rourke and Lisa Stathoplos star in “The Roommate.” Photo courtesy of Portland Stage Company

Eileen Phelan finds it ironic that roles tend to get much less interesting for women older than 40 in theater and film, yet this is often when actors are in command of their craft, based on years of experience.

As a director, one of her goals is to find plays for actresses in the prime of their creativity. “My desire was to find a play that would offer meaty character roles for actresses to sink their teeth into,” said Phelan, who directs “The Roommate” by Jen Silverman as part of the Portland Stage Company Studio Series. Lisa Stathoplos and Janice O’Rourke star.

“This is an opportunity to see two actors of this caliber portray complex women in the intimate setting” of the black box studio theater, Phelan said.

Portland Stage describes “The Roommate” as “The Odd Couple” meets “Thelma and Louise.” It’s a contemporary play, heartbreaking and funny in its exploration of connections among women.

Sharon lives alone in Iowa after a divorce and decides to seek a roommate. Robyn, a slam poet from the Bronx, is starting over. They become unlikely friends.

The play has been produced at festivals and regional theaters from California to Massachusetts.

O’Rourke and Stathoplos are both established Maine actors, appearing regularly at Portland Stage and with other theater companies in town.

Silverman lives in New York and has said she wanted to write a play “for badass women in their 50s.” She’s a two-time MacDowell fellow, recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant and many other honors.

Phelan, who handles communications duties at Portland Stage, is a director at heart. She lived in New York many years, producing the Obie Awards for 16 years, and was founding artistic director of Sightlines Theater Company and assistant director on the world premiere of “Stop Kiss” at the Public Theater.

“The Roommate”

WHERE: Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday to Sunday
HOW MUCH: $18
INFO: 774-0465, portlandstage.org

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