by William Donnelly
directed by Richard Hamburger
originally produced at Portland Stage,
April 1, 2008 through May 25, 2008
Subsequent production at the Act II Playhouse in Ambler, Pennsylvania
Magnetic North is a four-character play that looks at contemporary lives and relationships. In Magnetic North, James reconnects with Mara, an old girlfriend, during a period of crisis in his marriage to Leigh. Their casual meeting for drinks brings half-forgotten memories and uncertain desires suddenly to the surface. After James tells a co-worker, Emmett, of this meeting, the casual get together slowly begins to take on more weight. Told with warmth, humor, and a startling openness, Magnetic North is a charged tale of intimacy, temptation, and the shadowy border between flirtation and betrayal. The play explores issues of honesty and missed opportunities, causing us to contemplate why it is sometimes easier to share our real thoughts with strangers rather than those closest to us.
Magnetic North is an important addition to the American repertoire because it superbly showcases a new theatrical voice. As a young, agent-less writer, who did not come through one of the major playwriting programs, Donnelly has not had the opportunity to get his work in front of producers. This production of Magnetic North will be a unique opportunity for him as it will be a potential launch.
Donnelly has a great sense of humor when writing about serious situations. He has an incredible ear for dialogue finding a real personality in each of his characters. The issues Magnetic North presents are immediate and relevant to a wide variety of theatergoers. The audience will recognize themselves, their friends, their parents or children in the dilemmas encountered in the relationships between husband, wife, co-worker and ex-girlfriend. As such, it is the type of play that many regional theaters take into consideration when creating a season.
Working in regional theater, I believe it is vital that new play development infuse the heart and soul of theaters in a variety of communities instead of being relegated to large cities or giant festivals. Audiences around the country need to be invited to participate in the scary, messy, exhilarating process of bringing a new work to life, and writers deserve the opportunity to see the impact of their work on a community.
The Brooks Family Foundation
Act II Playhouse in Ambler, Pennsylvania – October 21-November 16, 2008
“I applaud everyone involved in this production. Management for selecting the play; costume designer Ellen McCartney for perfection in appealing attire; lighting designer Bryon Winn for expertly setting and shifting the fast-moving moods; and casting director Samuel Buggeln for peppering the play with top calibre actors. Follow your compass to Portland Stage Company for this magnetic gem.”
- Coastal Journal
“"Magnetic North" is a captivating production that’s superbly executed. Portland Stage took a chance with this new production and hit the mark.”
- Portland Press Herald