Robert Anderson's poignant drama Tea and Sympathy might have premiered on Broadway in 1953, but David Rainey, director of the current Back Porch production, says the issues it discusses are as fresh and relevant as ever. ''It's the story of [Tom,] a young boy who’s going through an awkward time in his life,'' Rainey says. ''He doesn't fit in; he never has. And he's being persecuted because some people suspect him of being a homosexual. It's set in the 1950s, but it's really pertinent now. There are strong parallels between that time and now.'' Jacob Perkel appears as Tom, with Joanne Hubbard as Laura, the headmaster's wife and Tom's strongest ally, much to the headmaster's disgust.
One of the qualities that drew Rainey to the play was its lack of hard, fast answers for the audience. ''There's a lot of ambiguity. As far as whether Tom is or isn't gay, I think people will draw their own conclusions, but they might draw different conclusions based on what they see. And there are some questions about other characters in the play, about whether or not they might be gay and are hiding it or maybe haven’t even recognized it yet.''
Asked if he was tempted to update the 1950s setting to contemporary times, Rainey says no. ''I tend not to play with [the story] too much. Some directors are very good at doing that, but I tend to look at what the playwright wrote and stick to that. In this particular play, it would be difficult to re-conceptualize it or modernize it. What we can do is to tell a clear story in such a way that a modern audience can get it.''
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7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through August 18. Main Street Theater Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit thebackporchplayers.com. $30.
Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: Aug. 1. Continues through Aug. 18, 2013