Batavia Players take on marriage, relationships in ‘The Women’

Jun 8, 2018

There were different attitudes in the 1930s about relationships than there are today.

At the time, if a man had a “wandering eye” and cheated on his wife, society expected a wife to simply accept that as part of married life. The Batavia Players will delve into those attitudes in a high-society setting in “The Women,” a play directed by Peggy Marone.

“It really is about the high-society women in that era who viewed their lives much differently, who met to play bridge and had nannies, maids and cooks working around the home. It’s also about their relationships and the trust they had or didn’t have,” Marone said, stepping away from rehearsals earlier this week.

The main character, Mary Haines, played by Emily Crawford, has a husband who has cheated on her with a girl who wants to move up in society, even if that means having an affair with a married man. Some of the other main characters are Nancy Blake, played by Annie Wright; Peggy Day, played by Kali Ace; Sylvia Fowler, played by Sarah Brunner; and Edith Potter, played by Malloryann Flanagan.

“Her (Mary Haines’) girlfriends find out that her husband is cheating on her,” Marone said. “It’s about the journey that this woman and her friends take. These five women form the main core of the show, with Mary being the central character. She sees the good and the bad in all of her friends and accepts them for who they are. Even when her friends turn on her, she doesn’t get mad.”

One of those who reinforces the 1930s attitude about marriage and tolerating infidelity by a husband is Mrs. Morehead, played by Marone, the play’s director. Mrs. Morehead is Mary Haines’ mother.

“I tell her (Haines) more than once, ‘He’s a man. That is OK. This is what happens,” Marone said.

This weekend’s production will include some in the cast playing multiple roles, the director said, noting this is a tough time of year to get a larger cast.

“It was actually out of necessity,” Marone said of relying on multiple roles for an actress. “The cast is brilliant and very dedicated and that’s all that matters to me. Based on the number of people we could get, we have to make some adjustments. We didn’t do anything that would affect the flow and meaning of the show.”

On her approach to working with the cast, Marone said, “ I read the play quite a few times and in my head, I look for certain attributes (of a character). I’m always asking them (the actresses), ‘Why did you say that?’ If an actor doesn’t understand the intent of their lines, they’re not going to be able to convey that to the audience.”

Among those playing multiple roles in “The Women” is Dorothy Gerhart, who plays Countess Flora DeLage, Miss Fordyce, Exercise Instructor and Miss Timmerback.

Gerhart said the cast was told from the beginning that there would be multiple roles for some cast members. She and Marone have worked together before, Gerhart said.

“I’ve been with the Batavia Players about 10 years, so I’ve worked with almost everyone in the cast,” Gerhart said. “She (Marone) was in ‘The Laramie Project,’ so we acted together. She was the director of one of the one-acts that I was in.”

As Mary Haines, Crawford said she is playing someone very kind and level-headed.

“I like playing Mary. It makes it challenging because you have to find subtleties in her character,” Crawford said.

While there may be bickering between characters, the cast is like one big family, she said. “It’s been a supportive environment.”

Gerhart said this is her first time working with Marone.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” she said. “Despite the fact that it’s a period piece, it covers very relevant themes to today.”

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Performances for “The Women” are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Harvester 56 Theater, 56 Harvester Ave. Tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and are available through DailyNewsTickets.com or at the box office.

By Brian Quinn, Batavia Daily News