Review of “Homestead Crossing” at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Stage
by Larry Murray
Homestead Crossing is a perfectly charming little play from playwright William Donnelly who also wrote last year’s popular No Wake. A “world premiere,” it is a co-production between the Berkshire Theatre Group, the Merrimack Repertory Theatre of Lowell, MA where it runs from September 6 to 30, and the Portland Stage Company in Portland, ME, with dates from October 30 to November 18.
The gorgeous set by Portland Stage’s artistic director Anita Stewart is both simple and functional, it will travel to all three venues over the course of the next few months. The house, located at the end of a cul de sac, is in the midst of endless rain, and the old gopherwood reference to Noah’s Ark finds itself recycled several times during the evening.
Homestead Crossing is perfect for upscale theatre audiences since it reflects their lives as they age in relative comfortable isolation. But for the less well off, and intellectually curious, it could be taken as an indictment of getting a little too used to their isolated existence.
When we first meet the middle aged couple Noel (David Adkins) and Anne (Corinna May) he’s reading a thick history book, and she tries to stir up some banter with him. The gopherwood joke is rolled out. No reaction. “Anything interesting in the book?” “Nope,” he says. In fact Ann and Noel are not at all the bickering sort of couple because they passed that point years ago. They have reached the most terrible place ofall: the plateau where their lives are so boring and monotonous that they have actually run out of conversation. Lacking intellectual curiosity, having found a secure haven in their home, they have withdrawn from the world and have become the perfect Republican role models. Their dreams are long gone, as is any sense of adventure. Once cultured and sophisticated, they have withered. There are millions of them all across America, and most of them will go see this play, or one like it, pronounce it “nice” and not even realize they have been royally skewered.
Outside the window appears the sopping wet Claudia (Lesley Shires) who asks to use the phone, and the couple reacts with caution and fear. Adkins’ helpless and clueless Noel is frozen in fear, sure she is an ax murderer or worse, dreaming up all sorts of paranoid scenarios while doing absolutely nothing, leaving Anne to open the door and help their intruder dry off. Actor Leslie Shires simply makes the young woman shine with the glow of youth, and when donning a white bathrobe becomes positively radiant. When she smiles, nothing can be wrong with the world.
Of course her scruffy boyfriend Tobin (Ross Cowan) , once she calls him, arrives. Here Adkins portrays a bumbling and suspicious husband, while Corinna May quickly softens her stance, finding the two intruders the first interesting people she has met in a long while.
Homestead Crossing then takes us on a gentle roller coaster ride, with a few ups and downs and a couple of curves to rush the play along to its conclusion.
Taken literally, it is a modestly entertaining evening’s entertainment that is well – and honestly – done under the steeady hand of director Kyle Fabel. It focuses on lightweight relationships, superficial love and safe lives that won’t upset the homeowners of Lenox, Lee and Stockbridge. On the other hand, it begs the question “Is that all there is?” to the life of the rich and idle. And that is troubling to those of us who do mot live life on the surface. So this play has one story to tell if you sit in the audience and let it wash over you. Amusing, and you will have forgotten it by next summer, like that television program you watched last night.
But scratch that surface, and start thinking about what this play is really exposing, now there is a great conversation to have with your soulmate over coffee. That is if you able to talk about more than the weather and the Red Sox.
Berkshire Theatre Group presents Homestead Crossing by William Donnelly, directed by Kyle Fabel, with David Adkins, Ross Cowan, Corinna May and Lesley Shires. August 7-Septmber 1, 2012 at the Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge, MA. August 7 – September 1, 2012, 90 Minutes, No Intermission. www.BerkshireTheatreGroup.org 413-997-4444.