While playhouses tend to select a script first and issue a casting call afterward, the latest Prospect Playhouse production started first with two actors in mind: Adam Roberts and Soraya Moghadass.
The friendship between the two thespians goes back five years, when Moghadass moved to Cayman and became involved with Cayman Drama Society. Since then, they have performed in multiple local productions together and formed a palpable comfort working together on stage.
That dynamic shines through in the performance of “Educating Rita,” a two-person play written by Willy Russell that has long captured the interest of Roberts, who plays Frank, a frustrated poet-turned-alcoholic professor.
For the role of Rita, the student Frank begrudgingly begins to tutor, Moghadass was a natural choice.
“When there’s only two of you [on stage], there has to be trust,” Roberts says.
Moghadass agrees – trust was a driving force in bringing together this small but impactful production.
Over recent months, Roberts and Moghadass took on the daunting task of learning around 45 minutes of lines each. With a simple set and no one else on stage, the spotlight remains firmly on these two and their ability to maintain a natural flow of banter – which, to their credit, they do very well.
The feats of this production extend backstage as well, where several members of the team saw themselves pulled into new roles.
Fay Anne De Freitas makes her directorial debut, stepping into the role just weeks before the Jan. 24 premiere after two other directors dropped out.
“It was hectic and rather nerve racking [stepping in to direct the show] because we had a very, very short time period. We only started rehearsing from the 18th of December and then we had a break for Christmas and New Year,” she says.
In a short amount of time, however, she pulled together a show well worth an evening out.
She credits part of the success to the professionalism of Roberts and Moghadass.
Other members of the crew pushed out of their comfort zones as well to make the show possible.
Liam Oko steps into the role of producer for the first time and Laura McCauley takes on her first-time role as stage manager.
The result is a smooth production that provides no hint of the learning curve taken on backstage.
For the audience, the relationship between Frank and Rita offers an opportunity to reflect. As Rita attempts to push out of her working-class world into the realm of academia, Frank too encounters challenges to his complacency and cynicism.
“At first, [she’s] a student that he doesn’t really feel like teaching. He’s kind of sick of his job. He’s a poet going nowhere. By the end of it, he really deeply cares for her, which is something really nice to see. And vice versa, she also cares for him a lot as well,” Oko says. “So it’s a really great human dynamic that you see throughout the show.”
For Moghadass, the big takeaway is change.
“How do you change yourself? How do you work on yourself?” she muses. “We’ve all been there, when we all think there are things about ourselves that we want to change and how we do it.”
The production is running at Prospect Playhouse Jan. 25-26 and 31, and Feb. 1 and 2. Tickets are still available and can be found online at www.cds.ky. Adults are $25 and students are $15.