With the school year out of the way, you might think that Kathleen Carey would look forward to just putting up her feet and relaxing all summer. Guess again.
Instead of taking it easy, the second-grade teacher at Sacred Heart School in Troy is right back in the thick of things at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, performing in “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” The play, by Marc Camoletti, is being directed by Phil Rice. It opens Friday and runs through July 7.
“I’ve been coming home exhausted, but I was thinking the other night how much I love it,” said Carey, who plays Suzette, the cook, in Camoletti’s farce about love mishaps and mistaken identities. “Between school and rehearsals I was putting in 10- to 12-hour days. It’s a challenge.”
But it’s a challenge she’s handled pretty well now for quite some time. Over the past 10 years she’s become one of the more sought-after actors in both community and regional theater, enjoying lead roles at Albany Civic Theater and the Schenectady Civic Playhouse, as well as such venues as Curtain Call Theatre in Latham and Hubbard Hall in Cambridge.
And, for five of the last six summers, she’s worked at the Theater Barn, a summer-stock equity troupe that often employs New York City talent.
Feeling at home
“I feel like this place is home now,” Carey said of the Theater Barn, which was created back in 1984 by Joan Phelps. “I missed it so much last year, and it’s such a joy to be back here, especially since they’re celebrating their 30th anniversary. I couldn’t wait to get out here.”
'Don't Dress for Dinner'
WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 State Route 20, New Lebanon
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through July 7; performance times are 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $24-$22
MORE INFO: 794-8989 or www.theaterbarn.com
While Carey has handled many dramatic roles during her theater career, such as Suzy in the 2005 Curtain Call production of “Waiting for Dark,” she’s also played more whimsical characters like “Peter Pan” at both Hubbard Hall and the Schenectady Civic Playhouse. She feels equally at home in farces like “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”
“I like the physicality of farces, and all the usual elements that go along with it, like mistaken identity and sexual innuendo,” she said. “There’s a real urgency to the action, and I’m enjoying my character. She’s a cook pretending to be a model. I like doing every kind of theater, and after you’ve had a long run of serious drama, something really emotional, it’s great to have the opportunity to do comedy.”
Sharing the stage with Carey are Stephen Powell as Bernard and Alyssa Chase as his wife, Jacqueline, who is having an affair with Robert, played by Brett Epstein. Bernard, meanwhile, also has his own mistress, Suzanne, played by Brittney Silver. Her husband, George is played by Ken Dillon.
The troubles begin when Bernard, in an attempt to spend time with Suzanne, a Parisian model, thinks he’s going to have some free time while his wife visits her mother. Jacqueline, however, cancels the trip when she suspects her husband is up to something. Suzette, Carey’s character, gets more involved when she’s asked by Bernard and Robert to pretend she’s not a cook and instead serve as Robert’s girlfriend.
“Don’t Dress for Dinner” opened in France in 1989, later ran in London for six years and opened on Broadway for a limited engagement in 2012. Camoletti, a French playwright who died in 2003, wrote what is generally regarded as his best play, “Boeing-Boeing,” back in 1962.
More work ahead
Carey’s busy summer won’t end when “Don’t Dress for Dinner” wraps up on July 7. On July 11, the Theater Barn will begin offering its second show of the season, Agatha Christie’s “The Unexpected Guess,” and Carey will have a key role in that production.
“We have 24 consecutive rehearsals and 19 performances between those two plays,” she said. “We don’t have the luxury in summer stock to spend four to six weeks to fool around with a play. It gets pretty challenging, but we all bond, we get through it, and I love the process.”
Typically, when Carey begins rehearsals at the Theater Barn in June, she has no idea who her acting colleagues will be.
“I’m the only one not staying at the cast house in New Lebanon, and most of them are from downstate,” she said of her co-stars. “Several of them are also in the Christie play we’re doing next, so we’re getting to know each other. I know the Barn does most of its casting in New York so I know Joan’s going to get great actors. I didn’t know a single one, but it’s not so daunting. It’s not like I’m walking into a completely new theater.”
Carey grew up dancing and performing in musicals before turning to straight plays as an adult. She has also done some film work and is also signed on to star in a Web series beginning soon. When she’s done with her summer gig in New Lebanon, she will be playing the lead character in “Big Maggie” at Albany Civic Theater in the fall. Written by Irish playwright John Keane, winner of the Irish PEN Award in 1999 for his body of work in literature, “Big Maggie” is about a domineering mother of four grown children who is also recently widowed.
“It’s been kind of difficult the last few years because school can get pretty involved for a teacher,” said Carey. “It’s quite a commitment, and I’ve had to scale back and tailor my theater work to what I can fit in and things that are really important to me. ‘Big Maggie’ is one of them, so I’m looking forward to that in the fall. I hadn’t really done that much this year, but I’m making up for it now.”
Rice, a Delmar resident and former English teacher at Shaker High School, has been a busy director and actor at various theaters around the Capital Region for more than 15 years. He most recently directed “Miracle on South Division Street” at Curtain Call Theater in May, and, like Carey, has become a semi-regular at the Theater Barn the past 10 years.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or bbuell@dailygazette.