note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
What if you were a middle-aged, childless couple who has been married for 30 years and are bored silly, with little or nothing to say to each other? Would that even matter?
That, folks, is only the beginning.
That situation is the driving force behind Shrewsbury playwright William Donnelly’s clever, new comedy, “Homestead Crossing”. The one-act play is making its world premiere with Merrimack Repertory Theatre in a co-production with the Berkshire Theatre Festival and the Portland Stage Company, through Sept. 30, at the newly-renovated Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, Liberty Hall, Lowell.
Director Kyle Fabel, who has helmed several successful productions at Merrimack Rep and nationally, is the master behind this tightly-timed, fast-paced production that’s comical, yet deliciously mysterious, at times. Donnelly’s underlying theme explores the fact that perhaps not all coincidences are incidental.
Fabel leads a fantastic cast here. David Adkins, Corinna May, Lesley Shires and Ross Cowan are delightfully believable.
Instead of splashing rain sloshing onstage, set designer Anita Stewart created large, crinkly, blue columns on both sides of the stage, anchored by sandbags, while designer Paul Hackenmueller maneuvers the lighting in couple Noel and Anne’s tastefully decorated, upper-scale home, from moderately lit to blackout, candlelit, and restored power. Anne (Corinna May) and Noel (David Adkins) are so bored, they have difficulty engaging in small talk, so when a drenched Claudia bangs on their large window, asking for help, Noel is keenly suspicious of her and reluctant to let her in. Claudia (Lesley Shires) says the doorbell isn’t working, so she had no other way to get their attention. She chose their house to seek help because “it looked so inviting,” she says. Meanwhile, Anne fearlessly welcomes Claudia’s intrusion, giving her a cozy, plush robe and tea.
And Claudia, who nervously chatters away in rat-a-tat cadence, has quite the tale. She was supposed to meet her boyfriend, Tobin, (Ross Cowan) in Anne and Noel’s neighborhood, but he didn’t show up. Her cell phone died, so she needed another phone to reach him. Maybe he’s dead, she muses.
She says her life is one disaster after another, a long list of bad decisions. “I’ve liberated myself,” she declares, claiming she ran away from her “creepy,” foster home (she’s 19 years old) with Tobin to start a new life together in Toronto. While Anne becomes increasingly sympathetic, Noel is more suspicious. Claudia is bright, well-spoken, friendly, and unnervingly honest, but something isn’t right, he mutters.
Suddenly, a soaking-wet Tobin bangs on the window, and Anne willingly lets him in. His story is worse. While driving through the flooded streets, his car sank, ruining the car and their belongings, and was towed away. He walked to Homestead Crossing, and luckily, found Claudia, because of her description on her phone message.
During a blackout and conversation, Anne and Tobin loosen up together, while Claudia and Noel uncannily discover the all have much in common, leading to Noel’s revelation, and this charming play’s surprise ending.
BOX INFO: One-act, 85-minute new comedy by William Donnelly, appearing through Sept.30, at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 E. Merrimack St., Lowell. Performances: Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4,8 p.m.; Sundays, 2,7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30, at 2 p.m. only. Tickets begin at $20; discounts for seniors, students, groups; also, rush tickets. Check for post-show forums. Visit merrimackrep.org or call the Box Office at 978-654-4678. Groups of 6+, call 978-654-7561.