‘Bay of Portugal’ premieres at Steel Beam

The Bay of Portugal ♦ Feb. 21-March 16 ♦ 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays ♦ Steel Beam Theatre, 111 W. Main St., St. Charles ♦ $28 adults; $25 seniors (62+); $23 students (16 and under). Group rate $22 for 10 or more. ♦ (630) 587-8521 SteelBeamTheatre.com

It was love at first site for Gwen and Jack. But they didn’t make it through their first year of marriage. What happens when they are reunited decades later?

Find out when Steel Beam Theatre presents the world premiere of “Bay of Portugal,” written by award-winning writer Richard Culliton. The production opens Feb. 21 at the St. Charles theater and runs through March 16.

“It’s been fun working with a new script. It’s got a lot of interesting situations. It’s a comedy, but it’s got a serious side to it,” said Director Terry Domschke of Elgin.

“It’s fun for us to be the first to enact the characters that he has written. That’s probably the biggest thrill. And to do a plot that hasn’t been done before for the first time, and establish the show’s personality.”

The new play was written by Culliton, who has spent more than three decades writing for soap operas including “Days of Our Lives”, “General Hospital,” “Guiding Light,” “All My Children” and more. His work has been honored by the Writers Guild of America and the Daytime Emmy Awards.

About six years ago, Culliton reconnected with fellow Northwestern University alum Donna Steele, founder and artistic director of Steel Beam Theater.

Since then, he has appeared in four shows at the St. Charles theater. And he offered Steel Beam the script for “Bay of Portugal.”

“I am thrilled to have any award-winning writer offer us his play for the world premiere,” said Steele, who is also a cast member and producer of the show. “It’s an honor to work on a play that has never been done before.”

They are also thrilled to have Culliton in attendance at Steel Beam opening weekend, she said. Culliton will be doing a meet and greet with the audience following the 3 p.m. Feb. 23 performance.

“When he does come to the opening night, it’s going to be wonderful to compare notes, to see if what he was imagining as the style of the show is what he sees on stage,” Domschke said.

Set in a “fairly upscale suburban area” of Chicago, the play features a cast of five from the northwestern suburbs of Chicago including Geneva, St. Charles, Bartlett and Oak Park. The title, “Bay of Portugal,” comes from William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

The plot is based on a younger actor and actress who are enamored of each other who tour the country with the National Shakespeare Company, Domschke said.

“So they start their relationship as an actor and actress together. But then life changes that. One of them sticks with acting and the other does not. Their lives evolve in separate ways and by major events, they’re brought together after approximately 30 years apart,” he said.

“This is an interesting premise because their relationship was based on art and now they’re coming down into a different area of their lives, which is the reality of the whole thing. It’s again a theme of reality and art, and its relationship to reality.”

Domschke, who has directed several productions at Steel Beam over the last six years, said the characters in the show get a second chance.

“It’s kind of like the dream situation we’d all like to be in,” he said. “It does have that element of confronting your past, and trying to rectify the mistakes you made. That’s what’s so human about the show.”