Opal Center’s ‘The Roommate’ delivers ‘something different’

Nikki Pagniano (left) and Elizabeth Peterson portray Robyn and Sharon in Opal Center for Arts & Education’s “The Roommate” this December.

November 22 - Often described as the “Odd Couple” meets “Breaking Bad,” New York-based Jen Silverman’s play “The Roommate” will be performed at the Opal Center for Arts & Education Dec. 2 through 10. Its plot centers around two older women in an Iowa home. 

Country bumpkin Sharon posts a listing for a roommate in her home while suburbanite Robyn answers the ad, needing a place to hide for a fresh start in life. Once they meet, they begin to discover each other's deepest secrets, resulting in a comedy gone awry.

Lance Troxel, the plays director and Opal Center board member, was eager at a chance to direct the play featuring his wife, Elizabeth Peterson, who plays Sharon, and Nikki Pagniano, playing Robyn, who were all looking at a chance to work with one another.

“We read a lot of plays, for different options,” Troxel said. “Unfortunately, there's not a ton of plays out there with just two lead women in it. And, then we found ‘The Roommate,’ which had recently been done by Oregon Contemporary Theatre right before the pandemic.”

Peterson, who was also recently featured in the Half-Baked Ham’s hilarious improvisation comedy production at Opal Center, read the play first and suggested it to Pagniano.

“She loved it, and then gave it to Nikki, Nikki loved it, and then gave it to me,” Troxel said. “And then I was like, ‘This is great. Let's do it.’”
As rehearsals progress and the small cast and director discovered the psychology and motivations of the characters' roles, they relied on support during the show’s colorful and darker themes.  
“I think we're all there to try to find the best idea wherever it comes from in being quite supportive of one another,” Troxel said. “And I think we're also on the same page about where we see the characters moving.”

50-something Sharon is recently divorced and when she meets Robyn, she finds an impulse to abandon her comfort zone and instead live a life of illegal risk and adventure.

Troxel says, “The show is, I think, about a transformation in many ways, sometimes when it's forced. And then, also choosing to be something different.”

Sharon gets more than she bargains for when Robyn shows up at her door. As Sharon learns of Robyn’s past, she’s inspired to break free … and break the law.

“The Roommate” is a wickedly funny and astute observation on transformation, friendship, and the thrill of starting over.

Showtimes are Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 4, 2:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at The Crafty Mercantile, 517 East Main St. Cottage Grove, 541-514-0704, or online at opalcentercg.org/events/the-roommate.