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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: February 4, 2015

For actor Katie MacNichol, ‘Our Man in Havana’ is the perfect reason to come back home to Maine

Written by: Bob Keyes
Bruce Turk and Katie MacNichol in “Our Man in Havana.” Aaron Flacke photo

Bruce Turk and Katie MacNichol in “Our Man in Havana.” Aaron Flacke photo

Katie MacNichol wanted to give her kids a taste of what it’s like to live in Maine.

She picked a good winter to do it.

MacNichol, who stars with her husband, Bruce Turk, in the Portland Stage Company comedy “Our Man in Havana,” grew up in Cape Elizabeth and has lived in Los Angeles for several years. She and Turk took these roles so they could bring their kids east from California to give them a taste of winter in Maine.

“They’re having a ball,” MacNichol said, noting that the novelty of snow has not worn off for 11-year-old Alexander and 9-year-old Cecelia. “They are the envy of all the kids back in sunny Pasadena.”

They’re all living with MacNichol’s mom, Loreen, in Cape Elizabeth. MacNichol and Turk are home-schooling their kids for the two months they’ll be in Maine. Before coming east, they loaded up on lesson plans and textbooks and pledged to their kids’ teachers they would keep up with the course work.

For MacNichol, coming home to work is pretty close to a dream come true.

“Throughout my whole career, I have wanted to come back and work in Portland,” MacNichol said. “I’ve wanted to see what it’s like to be an artist in Portland. I am an artist and I am a Mainer. But I haven’t combined those two in a long time.”

MacNichol was active in theater at Cape Elizabeth High School, where she graduated in the mid-1980s. Seeing shows at Portland Stage made her realize she could have a career in theater.

Turk is the star of “Our Man in Havana.” He plays of James Wormold, whose quiet Cuban life changes when a British agent recruits him as a spy. MacNichol and two other actors play multiple roles in the madcap comedy, which has garnered positive reviews.

Neither MacNichol nor Turk was familiar with the play before the roles were pitched. The script was dizzying. But they loved the nature of the play, which is fast-paced and funny, with lots of scene and costume changes. “We’re character people,” Turk said. “We revel in that kind of physical theater and the challenge of having to tell a story.”

The other thing that sold them on the show was director Paul Mullins.

“He is our favorite director,” Turk said. “I always know, regardless of the material, going into the room with Paul is not only going to be artistically satisfying and challenging but also a lot of fun. And it has been an incredible amount of fun. We laugh a lot.”

MacNichol and Turk were visiting Maine last summer and stopped for a courtesy call with Portland Stage executive and artistic director Anita Stewart. They told her that if Mullins was in line to direct a show, they would like to be considered for the cast if the roles were appropriate.

The show is on stage through Feb. 15.

During rehearsals leading up to the opening, the couple was at the theater most of the day and into the evening with rehearsals. That made home-schooling a challenge. With the show now up and running, their days are more relaxed – but they remain vigilant with their kids’ lessons. “Math starts at 8:30,” Turk said.

Last week’s sciences class involved snow and ice.

“OUR MAN IN HAVANA”

WHERE: Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland
WHEN: Through Feb. 15
HOW MUCH: $20 to $42; 774-0465
INFO: portlandstage.org

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