Take-charge Stacy Stoltz in 'Assisted Living'

January 11, 2012

We’ve all been there—or will be someday. We develop a bad case of creeping middle age and a closely related sense of diminishing options. We’ll never fly on the flying trapeze, never get that advanced degree in fiber arts. Hell, we won’t even learn how to knit. Even worse, as we begin to doubt our own reserves and capabilities, we’re often saddled with the care of aging or otherwise dependent relatives.

In a nutshell, that’s 39-year-old Anne Kelly in Deirdre O’Connor’s unexpectedly hilarious Assisted Living. It’s an understatement to say Anne is starting to feel the strain of a decade living with and caring for a mother with dementia. Meanwhile her ne’er-do-well younger brother does little or nothing.

Yet Anne is not going gentle. In fact she’s light-years from the stereotypical self-sacrificing spinster.

“It’s fun to be angry and act badly—and let the audience feel why,” says Stacy Stoltz of her role in Profiles’ world premiere, recently extended a second time.

“I find Anne easy to relate to,” Stoltz adds. “She’s not apologetic about her behavior. She’s angry and frustrated and behaving badly, yet I’m able to show her vulnerability in a way everyone can understand. There are a lot of opportunities to show why she’s so cornered and desperate—and fighting. It’s the kind of role many playwrights don’t write for women.”

Like Anne, Stoltz says, “I’m not really able to control my emotions. I’m an open book.” For all her characters, she says, “I use my personality, which I guess has a lot of jagged edges.” When she played Roxanne in House Theatre’s Cyrano, for example, she aimed to make her more than “just a pretty, spoiled princess.”

Anne’s complexity makes it easy to understand why her mom’s new caregiver, a lovable young loser named Levi, is attracted to this “sexy librarian.” At the performance I saw, at a crucial point in their relationship, the audience burst into cheers and applause—a tribute to Joe Jahraus’s unsentimental yet sympathetic production and to the deft work of Jordan Stacey as Levi.

Stoltz, who has faced her own challenges with family, says, “I feel very connected to Anne and to the story we’re telling, and I want to keep growing with it. There’s always something more to learn—some new avenue to explore.”

A member of both the Hypocrites and the House, Stoltz has been married to actor-director-fight choreographer Matt Hawkins since 2007. They met in 2002 at a Collaboraction party, and though the attraction was apparently instantaneous and mutual and the two talked, Hawkins didn’t immediately ask Stoltz out. So, in a move worthy of Anne, “I grabbed him as he was walking away and asked him out,” she says.

In 2010, playing Stella and Stanley Kowalski in Writers' Theatre's acclaimed A Streetcar Named Desire, the two were famously hot for each other. “We loved working together,” says Stoltz, who adds that she also collaborated with her husband on Cyrano, for which Hawkins did the bang-up fight choreography.

“With Streetcar, there’s a strong physical relationship, obviously. And being physical with Matt, as an actor, I trust him 100 percent. He knows the choreography, and he has such control. I felt I could relax.”

“Sometimes it just felt so easy to connect—because part of it was real,” Stoltz says of their experience in Streetcar. “I can’t wait for another opportunity to be onstage with Matt again.”