In the play “Homestead Crossing,” David Adkins and Corinna May play husband and wife.
In real life, they are husband and wife.
They’ve worked together on a couple of staged readings, and routinely help each other with their respective roles during the rehearsal process. But in their dozen years as a married couple, they have never appeared on stage together.
Adkins and May star in the premiere of a new play, “Homestead Crossing,” opening this week at Portland Stage Company.
Written by New England playwright William Donnelly, the Portland Stage production is a co-production with two other New England theater companies, the Berkshire Theatre Group in western Massachusetts and the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell. It opened in Stockbridge in August, in Lowell in September and now, after a month’s break, in Portland.
It has had the same cast, director and set in each city. That has allowed Adkins and May to develop a rhythm on stage that mirrors their rhythm in life.
“People assumed that we have worked together, and they ask why we have not,” Adkins said. “There is no specific reason. It just hasn’t happened. But this seemed so obvious to the producers.”
Obvious, perhaps, because in “Homestead Crossing,” they play a couple, Noel and Anne, who are forced to take a hard and uncomfortable look at their marriage when their lives are interrupted by unexpected visitors to their home on a rainy afternoon.
A young couple shows up seeking shelter after their car has gone off the road. Noel distrusts them, but Anne welcomes them in. As conversations evolve, conflicts ensue.
Noel and Anne find themselves explaining to their new acquaintances how they became a comfortable, childless and decidedly unambitious couple. In these youngsters, they see flashes of themselves, which forces them to confront some difficult questions about how they got to where they are today.
The play explores issues of finding love and fulfilment in ordinary lives, and provides a contrast between a young couple just starting out and another that has settled into routine.
The play offers a resolution that feels convincingly right, and should leave audiences feeling good about the couples on stage – and perhaps themselves and their own marriages.
“I remember reading this play and thinking, ‘I want to love this play,’ ” said May. “And I did.”
“I love it because it’s so smart and so funny and so true at the same time,” she said.
It’s not cynical or simple, but heartfelt and real. Especially with contemporary plays, we get funny and smart, but no heart. “This one has heart,” May said.
Donnelly has worked at Portland Stage before. He wrote “Magnetic North,” which premiered at Portland Stage in 2008, and has written plays for the Little Festival of the Unexpected.
Director Kyle Fabel is a big fan of Donnelly’s, and has directed the playwright’s plays before.
“I like his combination of intelligence and humor,” Fabel said. “I love that he writes contemporary plays that have humor, but not specifically dark humor. They have a bit more heart than your average contemporary comedy. He is a bit more honest.”
Among other reasons, this play works for the audience because we get a sense of the history of both couples. Both have strains in their relationships, but their love is obvious and believable.
“Some writers are more interested in showing just the conflict,” Fabel said. “But Bill achieves more than that.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: