Playing a man in a woman’s body is no small acting challenge. But that’s not the half of the task that Michaela Hickey faces in “Goodbye Charlie,” opening tonight at Olympia Little Theatre.
Hickey of Olympia also has to play a man in a woman’s body who’s pretending to be a woman.
“It’s a little over the top,” Hickey said. “Everything is very exaggerated and a lot higher pitched.”
“Goodbye Charlie,” the first play in the theater company’s 2012 season, is a 1959 comedy about a womanizer who dies and finds himself reincarnated. Instantly. As a full-grown woman. With all his memories intact.
So at first, Charlie is all man. “He swears, and he curses,” Hickey said. “He talks to his buddy George just like two guys would be talking.”
The actress finds she has to pay attention to a lot of little things that normally come naturally.
“When we are just standing there, women lean on one leg and put a hip out,” she said. “Men don’t do that. They stand taller, or they cross their arms. And I have to be careful that I’m sitting with my legs apart.
“I’ve kind of been studying all the guys in my life and watching how they move and stand and how they speak, even.”
Charlie, however, finds a genuine feminine side pretty quickly. “Every now and then, he says something and the woman just naturally comes out of him,” Hickey said. “A couple of times, it takes him by surprise, and a couple of times, he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. He’s just turning into a woman.”
The actress thinks of Charlie as three characters in one. “There are places in the play where it goes between two of the characters even just from line to line,” she said.
Director Kendra Malm opted not to modernize the play, although she’s choosing to set it in 1962, a few years after it was written. “The whole play has an early ’60s vibe to it,” she said. “And that resonates with the popularity of shows like ‘Madmen.’ ”
The play was made into a 1964 movie starring Debbie Reynolds and Tony Curtis.
Malm said the play is a good fit for Olympia Little Theatre, which often attracts slightly older audiences who are looking for good solid entertainment.
“I’ve been finding that the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s produced some interesting comedies,” she said. “If you have the right comedy, you can also make people think afterward without hitting them over the head.
“In this case, it’s getting people to think about gender differences and the way men and women relate and the way men treat or consider women,” she added.
And the fact that the play was written more than 50 years ago might make the content even more thought-provoking, she said. “It shows how things have changed and in some ways how things haven’t changed in the relationship between the sexes.” ‘Goodbye Charlie’
What: Olympia Little Theatre opens its season with “Goodbye Charlie,” a 1959 comedy about a womanizer who dies and is reincarnated as a woman.
When: 7:55 p.m. today and Saturday, plus Sept. 20-22, Sept. 27-29 and Oct. 4-6; and 1:55 p.m. Sept. 23 and 30 and Oct. 7.
Where: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia.
Season tickets: Choose four or more plays and receive a $2 discount per ticket.
More information: 360-786-9484 or olympialittletheatre.org.
THE REST OF THE SEASON
This season offers only six plays because the theater will be closed December through March for remodeling, including the installation of a new heating and air-conditioning system.
“Give ’Em Hell, Harry,” by Samuel Gallu (Oct. 11-14): Showing for one weekend only, this is a one-man show about President Harry S. Truman.
“Night Must Fall,” by Emlyn Williams (Nov. 1-25): This old-fashioned thriller centers on a wealthy elderly woman, her long-suffering niece and the charming young man she hires as a companion.
“Premiere,” by Dale Wasserman (April 12-May 5): This show tells the story of a comedy writer determined to prove he can be taken seriously and the discovery of a new play said to be the work of William Shakespeare.
“Same Time, Next Year,” by Bernard Slade (May 31-June 23): The comedy that inspired the Alan Alda film follows two lovers who have an affair that spans 26 years.
“Love, Loss and What I Wore,” by Nora and Delia Ephron (July 12-28): This show is a series of monologues that tell stories of women’s lives and wardrobes from first bras to the tyranny of purses.