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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Homestead Crossing

"I've grown bashful. I can't help it. I've grown modest. I started modest and then I came out of my shell a bit and for a while I was slightly audacious and now I've grown modest again."— Anne
Homestead Crossing
David Adkins and Corinna May
(Photo credit: Christy Wright)
The inability of Anne (Corinna May) to air her sexual needs to her husband Noel (David Adkins) is just one of the problems with their seemingly comfortable married life in an anywhere USA suburban cul-de-sac. The home in the street for which William Donnelly named his new play is a carefully nurtured comfort zone with an invisible fence to keep out troublesome thoughts of boredom, regrets and frustrating memories.

This world premiere has many of the assets of Donnelly's excellent 2010 play No Wake, also at Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn Theater and directed by Kyle Fabel. Like that play, Homestead Crossing showcases this playwright's ability to explore life's travails and leaven the darkness with large doses of crisp, humorous dialogue. The cast once again features the always excellent David Adkins and the plot moves along at a brisk 90 minutes.

Unfortunately, as Anne and Noel's marriage has problems, so does Donnelly's exploration of what has led to their shying away from letting their conversations get deep down into their feelings of ennui with their life and with each other. While No Wake was an original, emotionally powerful drama that combined genuinely tragic events with a love triangle, Homestead Crossing is a far more familiar story of lives not fully lived and a marriage allowed to go stale.

The play's problems are exacerbated by a structure that's a derivative of Edward Albee's penchant for mixing surrealism and naturalism, but without the tense air of mystery found in Albee's work. Like numerous Albee plays, Donnelly uses a realistically depicted main couple (Adkins and May) plus a counterpoint younger couple — Claudia (Lesley Shires) and Tobin (Ross Cowan). Though the second couple looks and sounds real enough they may merely be triggers to bring the repressed reality of the older couple's lives to the surface. Think The Play About the Baby, and A Delicate Balance (revived at the Fitzpatrick Main Stage 2 years ago review), or, for a more visibly surrealistic second couple, Seascape.

Homestead Crossing starts out well enough, with Anne and Noel spending a rainy night in their living room. He's reading. She's restless and eager and seems to want him to put down the book and initiate a little more togetherness, possibly with "a little fooling around." That initial interchange aptly sets the scene for the troubles lurking beneath the banter before a knock on the window introduces an intruder, a young woman (that's Shires' Claudia) who's lost her cell phone and needs to call her boyfriend.

The intensely reserved Noel is unwilling to let the rain-drenched young woman in. Anne is less paranoid about the possibility of her being a terrorist. And so, it's open sesame with Anne's bathrobe provided to give the girl a chance to dry out.

Unable to connect with the boyfriend who was supposed to pick her up near where Anne and Noel live, Claudia soon makes herself at home. As she drops details about her own situation (She's in an unhappy foster home situation and she and Tobin are planning to head for Toronto and a new life together), she also has plenty of questions for her impromptu hosts.

By the time Tobin enters the picture — like Claudia he comes knocking on the window— we have more than a hint that the young couple's hope for a more meaningful life in a faraway place is stirring up carefully buried memories of Anne and Noel's own youth. We learn that they're childless and at one time contemplated but never followed up on all manner of joint enterprises.

All four actors play their parts well. Adkins ably lets the discontent bubbling beneath his tightly controlled lord of the suburban manor build into mounting emotional meltodown as he recognizes himself in his unwelcome visitors. May is fine as the seemingly less fearful if equally uptight Anne. Shires and Cowan evoke the required ebullience of the intruders. However, while these bits and pieces of recollected memories move this real and basically comic story into unreal and more serious, life changing territory, Mr. Donnelly inexplicably fails to tell us what Anne and Noel ended up doing to afford the substantial home in which they are living the rather common nightmare of the unhappily undivorced. Maybe he felt that omitting this vital plot detail would intensify the real to unreal shift.

Though scenic designer Anita Stewart has created a handsome enough living room with a big upstage window for the intruders to knock on, this is a play set in the present, and a couple like this, especially Noel, would be as or more like to spend a lot of time glued to a TV set rather than reading a history book. Yet, there isn't a sign of a TV set though there are piles of sancbags at either side of the stage, which are, I suppose, meant to turn the torrential rains into a symbol of Anne and Noel's being trapped in their tight little Noah's arc world. While Shane Rettig has provided a soundscape for the rain flooding the streets and gardens outside, it would have been nice for Paul Hackenmueller to use his lighting design skill to create a wetter look for that window.’

In her opening night welcoming speech BTG's artistic director and CEO Kate Maguire suggested that since this is a co-production with three other theater companies, viewers might want to see Homestead Crossing again and again. While Donnelly's dialogue and the excellent actors make it perhaps worth one viewing during it's Unicorn run, even if geography were not against following Maguire's suggestion, this 90-minute Albee-ish "real yet unreal comedy" is hardly new and memorable enough to visit again and again.

Homestead Crossing By William Donnelly
Cast: David Adkins (Noel), Ross Cowan (Tobin), Corrina May (Anne), Lesley Shires (Claudia)
Sets:Anita Stewart
Costumes: Laura De Bruijn
Lights: Paul Hackenmueller’
Sound: Shane Rettig
Running Time: 90 minutes without intermission
Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, MASS
Berkshire Theatre Group in partnership with Merrimack Repertory Theatre of Lowell, MA and Portland Stage Company of Portland, ME.’
From 8/07/12; opening 8/11; closing 9/01/12
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at August 11th opening
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