Toward the end of Lisa Loomer's play Living Out, a character asks, "Can you ever really know someone who is so different from you?"
The irony is that, despite their assumptions, the main characters -- white women and their Hispanic nannies -- are not as different as they all believe.
"Even though the play is clearly divided between the nannies and the people who hire them, they're actually all struggling to make better lives for their children," says HCC Theater professor Patricia Sandoval, the director.
Sandoval said she chose the play for the Theater Department's spring production because it wrestles with the issues that are central for many women -- motherhood, career, family.
"It's the story of women," Sandoval said. "It's the story of women's conflict. It's a story about the struggle all women have with regard to children and career no matter their country of origin."
The HCC Theater Department will present Living Out April 24, 25 and 26, at 7:30 p.m., in the Leslie Phillips Theater, with a matinee performance on Sat., April 26, at 2 p.m. The Friday, April 25, performance will be sign language interpreted.
The play is set in present day Los Angeles and follows the relationship between Ana, a Salvadorian nanny (played by HCC student Jocelyn Lopez, of Holyoke), and Nancy, the lawyer she works for (played by HCC student Adriana Piantedosi, of Northampton).
"There are no good or bad people in this play," said Sandoval. "That's why I liked it. They're all good people. They're all good people trying to make it in the world."
Nancy is just returning to work after having her first baby and is wracked by guilt. Ana is an illegal resident who has a husband and young son to take care of -- and an older son she had to leave behind in El Salvador.
"The play is full of ironies and paradoxes," she said. "The point is that the lawyer in L.A. and the nanny from El Salvador are very much alike."
The significance of the title is revealed in the very first scene as Ana is interviewed for a job.
"Are you interested in living in or living out?" her prospective employer asks.
"Living out," she says.
She doesn't get the job.
"Living out is a conflict right there," says Sandoval. "It means the nanny has another world to go to, another life, other priorities."
The play also shows the complexity of race, class and gender. Much of the play's humor comes from the way Loomer constructs blended scenes where the Spanish-speaking women are making stereotypical assumptions about their employers, while the employers are making stereotypical assumptions about their nannies.
The nannies, in particular, also make comments about working for other ethnic groups, such as Jews (frugal), Middle Easterners (terrible decorators) and Latinos ("I'm not a slave!").
"Everyone knows the stereotypes are inaccurate," says Sandoval. "But the playwright is very brave in putting these issues out there."
The nannies occasionally throw in a line in Spanish. Sandoval said it was important to her to cast Spanish-speaking students in those roles.
"Students can always learn accents," she said, "but we have a large Latino and Hispanic population at HCC, and it's nice to feature their abilities on the stage, as well as shedding some light on the issues embedded in the play."
The cast also features students Grace Eldredge, of Florence, as Wallace, and Julie Edwards, of Holyoke, as Linda (two wealthy, state-at-home moms), Gabriel Nieves, of Holyoke, as Bobby (Ana's husband), Benjamin Meck, of Northampton, as Richard (Nancy's husband), Diana Soler, of Northampton, as Sandra (a nanny from Mexico) and Naomi Robles, as Zoila, (a nanny from Guatemala).
Tickets are $10 (general admission); $8 for students and seniors; and $5 for members of the HCC community (students, staff and faculty) with a valid I.D. Tickets can be reserved in advance by calling (413) 552-2485.
Photos: (Left) Julie Edwards, Adriana Piantedosi and Grace Eldredge rehearse a scene from the HCC production of Living Out, by Lisa Loomer.(Right) Jocelyn Lopez asg Ana, a Salvadorian nanny, rehearses with Adriana Piantedosi, who plays Nancy, the lawyer she works for.