Opening Oct. 24, the production will feature Sarah Shahinian, who played the young bride in Act II's recent Married Alive!, plus Barrymore nominee Christie Parker, Brad Heikes and Paul Felder.
In Magnetic North, winner of the 2006 Clauder Competition for New England Playwrights, "a young husband meets a woman from his past during a period of crisis in his marriage, bringing half-forgotten urges and uncertain intentions to the surface," according Act II. "Between the lure of the past and the need for connection, four very real people struggle to make sense of mixed signals and how much truth they need — or want — to hear."
Director Martin said in production notes, "This play is like an onion. We keep peeling away new layers throughout the rehearsal process. What 'attracted' me to this play was how well Bill articulated our struggle to resist the temptations and 'tug' of people and events in our lives that pull us away from our true north. It is emotionally engaging, but very subtle, and a wonderful piece for actors as the characters fight to behave the opposite way they feel and yet show the audience all of those layers."
Donnelly has said that the idea for the play came from a real-life situation in which he met up with woman he dated in college. The play ended up veering off in a direction he wasn't expecting.
Magnetic North had its world premiere in April 2008 at Portland Stage Company. The production team includes set designer Dirk Durossette, costume designer Wade Laboissonnier, sound designer Mark Valenzuela and lighting designer James Leitner, who won a Barrymore Award for Best Lighting for Act II Playhouse's 2004 production of Mary's Wedding.
Massachusetts-based playwright Donnelly's plays have been produced by Portland Stage Company (Portland, ME), the Unicorn Theatre (Kansas City), Blue Forms (Columbus, OH), Mad Cat (Miami), Theater Alliance (Washington, DC), and several Boston-area companies including Industrial Theatre, Rough & Tumble, Mill 6, and Alarm Clock.
He was a contributor to Alarm Clock Theatre Company's Elliot Norton Award-winning play, P.S. Page Me Later. He has twice been named a Clauder Competition Finalist and has had plays read as part of Portland Stage Company's Little Festival of the Unexpected. His play Apocalypso! was published as part of the 2002 Little Fest anthology.
In 2005, he was awarded a Playwriting/New Theatre Works grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Magnetic North was named the 2006 Clauder Competition grand prize winner.
Tickets are $25 for all Wednesday-Thursday performances and $30 for Friday through Sunday shows, with discounts available for groups of 10 or more. For tickets and information, call the Act II box office at (215) 654-0200, or visit 56 E. Butler Ave., or www.act2.org.
Act II Playhouse, celebrating 10 years of professional theatre in the Philadelphia suburb of Ambler, PA, "is committed to creating world-class theatre in a venue whose intimacy draws audiences and actors into dynamic interrelation. Act II produces new, classic, and contemporary plays and musicals that reflect the highest artistic standards."
Bud Martin is producing artistic director. Harriet Power is associate artistic director.
The final dress rehearsal of Magnetic North, which Act II opens to the public as a fundraiser for a local charity, will be held on Oct. 19 at 2 PM, followed by a talkback. Suggested donation is $10, and all contributions will go to the Abington Chapter of the Compassionate Friends, Inc., which assists area families with grief resolution following the death of a child.