When Rebecca Greene Udden first read Maxim Gorky's play Enemies, "the thing that really struck me about it was the disconnect between the factory owners and the workers. What resonated was the whole 1 percent versus the 99 percent."
Set in a factory in 1905, Maxim Gorky’s Enemies shows a Russian society as more than just landed gentry and peasants, but also the increasingly disgruntled middle class.
Factory workers are demanding changes of the two owners, one of whom is sympathetic to them; the other maintains a hard line. The militia is called in with calamitous results.
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“It’s a great actors' piece. There’s lots of characters in it,” says Udden, the director of this production and artistic director of Main Street Theater. It was precisely for that reason that the University of Houston couldn’t tackle it by itself, she says, and Rob Shimko, director of the UH School of Theatre & Dance suggested it to her. Besides the large cast (which does include some UH students), there are a number of “mature roles,” in the play, she says.
Gorky's work is not well known in the United States, other than for his play The Lower Depths (1902). His plays are often compared to those of the much more famous Chekhov in terms of themes. In and out of exile from Russia for many years, Gorky (whose real name was Alexei Maximovich Peshkov) eventually returned for good in 1932 when Stalin was in power. He died in 1936.
The three-act play adapted by David Hare will be performed with two intermissions. “This is about people who have power and are completely oblivious to the effect they are having on everyone else in society.” Despite this, Udden says, “There’s a lot of humor to it. Still, it’s a Russian play.”
Performances are scheduled for September 16 through October 15 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at Main Street Theater – Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $36 to $45.