- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Few people should be able to accuse Boyd Gaines and Kathleen McNenny of not having any onstage chemistry. That’s because it’s undeniable in real life.

The actors, who met 20 years ago this summer and went on to marry and have a child, are doing something new this month: Appearing together as a couple for the first time on a New York stage.

“You always want to work with people that are better than you,” says McNenny during a joint interview. “Not only do I get to work with someone who is better _ who’s really, really great to be onstage with _ but I also feel safe. I don’t feel intimidated by it because it’s my husband.”

Her four-time Tony Award-winning husband takes issue with that. “I’m certainly not better than she is,” he says. “God knows that is not true. I’m always dumbstruck by how creative Kathy is and how much she brings to the table.”

New York theatergoers will finally be able to see the husband-and-wife team up close as they star in Manhattan Theatre Club’s “An Enemy of the People,” a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s play opening Sept. 27 on Broadway.

Gaines plays a public-minded doctor in a small town who discovers the water supply for the public spa is contaminated and may have made tourists _ the community’s economic lifeblood _ ill. But his efforts to clean up the mess pit his ethics against political cowards and the media. His family suffers _ including his wife, played by McNenny.

Gaines and McNenny say their personal relationship gave them a head start when it came to approaching the play. It was an instant intimacy they wouldn’t have had if other actors were cast as their spouses.

“The play is about a marriage that is at least 20 years old. It’s about a marriage that has children. It’s about a marriage that’s had struggle,” McNenny says. “The marriage is very complicated. So if we come in with people we didn’t know, there’s a period of time before you even start to build with that. With us, a lot of steps got cut out of the process.”

FALLING IN LOVE

Fitting for a pair of actors, Gaines and McNenny first became smitten while onstage.

They had been paired as the lovers Luciana and Antipholus of Ephesus in the 1992 Public Theater production of William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” in Central Park.

They had briefly met before while shooting the 1991 miniseries “A Woman Named Jackie,” but it was really when “The Comedy of Errors” director Caca Rosset set up private meetings with his cast that they first connected.

Gaines went first to meet Rosset and when he came out, McNenny was waiting her turn. Rosset reintroduced them and asked the pair, “So, do you think you can fall in love?”

“We both shrugged our shoulders and went, `Well, sure.’ That’s our job. We were going to act that,” Gaines recalled. McNenny, too, was game: “I said, `Sure, I’ll fall in love with him. Fine.’”

After the show ended, they began dating.

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