Sean Ramey of Auburn plays Rake Donovan, a ’60s hippie turned ’80s heroin addict, in the Portland stage show “Rock & Roll.” Contributed

PORTLAND — The rock ‘n’ roll music Rake Donovan embraced in the ’60s brought him salvation and definition. Ultimately, the accompanying roller coaster lifestyle also brought his all-too-early demise.

The fictional character sprang from the mind of Kevin O’Leary of Portland, a longtime playwright who teaches drama and English at Morse High School in Bath. The 60-year-old’s latest offering, “Rock & Roll,” hits the Portland Stage Company Studio Theater on Thursday, Sept. 26.

Kevin O’Leary of Portland, a drama and English teacher at Morse High School in Bath, is the playwright of “Rock & Roll.”

“For about 40 years, all my rowdy friends have been hounding me, nudging me, inviting me to write my ‘Rock & Roll’ play,” O’Leary said in an interview earlier this summer.

Last year, knowing that 2019 would mark the 50th anniversary of some key events in American history – the moon landing and the Woodstock music festival, to name two – O’Leary pondered, “maybe this is a good time to see what comes out.”

What was intended to be a few scribbled notes cascaded into the first of the play’s two acts. The opening half features five young guys who are avid music fans, particularly of the Rolling Stones, and consider themselves the 20th-century version of Shakespeare’s “band of brothers.”

It’s Keith Richards’ 26th birthday – Dec. 18, 1969 – which followed the release of the Stones’ celebrated “Let it Bleed” album, and the band’s tragic Altamont concert, where a young man was murdered.

Donovan – played by Sean Ramey of Auburn – is the ringleader of this crew, and his “dirty, filthy basement” is the premise, O’Leary said.

“The first act is about the Stones, and philosophizing, and getting stoned, and being guys in the guy cave in 1969,” he said. That is, until Donovan’s “old lady” (’60s-speak for “girlfriend”), Tia, crashes the party and causes it to break up, leaving the couple by themselves.

Jumping forward 20 years, Rake is frail and bedridden and suffering the fourth stage of AIDS, thanks to a heroin addiction. The young woman attending to him is played by Marie Stewart Harmon, the same actress who portrays Tia, leading one to question whether the nurse is actually Tia’s daughter – and, therefore, Donovan’s. The band of brothers reunites one last time, but perhaps not the way you’d expect.

“The play is about the need to forgive, and the desire to be forgiven,” O’Leary said. “Because Rake is not the greatest human being in the world. He’s full of himself, he’s arrogant, he’s brilliant. … He’s a hippie of his time, rock and roll is his life, freedom is everything.”

Ramey didn’t mince words about the character he portrays.

“I have more in common with him than I am comfortable admitting,” the 47-year-old said in an interview Sept. 11. “He’s a very dark character. So how am I dealing with it? Not well yet, I have to say. I’m totally up in knots about him.”

“He’s complex, just like any human being is,” Ramey said. “And there are reasons to love him, and there are reasons to look right at him and go, ‘you selfish son of a bitch.'”

That’s the paradox of the human condition, he said. And, to an extent, of the late ’60s hippie movement, which “had some brilliant people in it, who did brilliant things. But that co-existed in a big tangled mess with a lot of addiction, and an unjust war where too many of us died, and racial violence throughout our country. We can’t forget that, that it wasn’t all beautiful flowers.”

After a hiatus from acting, Ramey several years ago joined Portland’s Phoenix Theater, where he’s performed in five shows, most recently “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He met O’Leary through that organization, and acted in his “Man on a Treadmill” last year.

“Kevin O’Leary is a straight inspiration to me,” Ramey said. “That what I have is worthwhile, that what we do is important. The life of an artist is amazing and painful, and all of it.”

“Any chance that I could have to work with Kevin, I would grab it,” he added. “He asked me to do this, I didn’t even read the script, I just said ‘yeah, man; just tell me where to be.'”

The $25 tickets can be purchased at O’Leary can be reached at 831-2434 for more information.

A pay-what-you-can, final dress rehearsal will be held at the Portland Stage Company Studio Theater, 25A Forest Ave., at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25. Official performances take place at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 26-28, and Wednesday-Sunday, Oct. 2-6. A matinee will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29.

Veterans and enlisted people pay $10, and those 25 years or younger get free admission if seats are available.

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