In a departure from history and from his usual brittle and sophisticated comedies, playwright Noel Coward wrote a story in which the Battle of Britain was lost to Germany which has taken over England.
Little produced - it has a large cast and while it has humorous elements it is a serious work - Peace in Our Time is something the Main Street Theater had wanted to do for a while, according to Main Street's artistic director Rebecca Greene Udden, who will also direct.
University of Houston was looking for more outlets for its theater students since a lot of its main stage time is being taken up by the Alley Theatre during the latter's renovations, she said, and this play calling for 30 or more parts (winnowed to 24 in this production) seemed like a good fit.
"It's certainly an interesting departure from what we think of as Noel Coward," she said. "This is very much in the style of the sort of patriotic, little bit jingoistic movies produced during the war except this was written after the war. It was inspired by his understanding of what the French went through living under the Occupation and how would his countrymen have adapted to being occupied. It was a sort of hypothetical what would it have been like if we had been occupied by the Germans the way the French were."
Set in what Udden calls "the quintessential British location" - the pub - it offers a cross section of humanity: opportunists, collaborators and the resistance.
"I think it's a great story and you really care about these people. It is an old fashioned story in a way. In fact the challenge for the actors is understanding that they can't make this a contemporary sounding piece. It's not. It also has a lot to say about how people's minds, how their ideals can be undermined by the conditions under which they live."
Nine UH students will have the chance to act along with professionals among them: Joel Sandel, Joe Kirkendall, Elizabeth Marshall Black Pamela Vogel, Rutherford Cravens and Celeste Roberts in the two-hour, two-act production.
Peace in Our Time opens September 18 and runs through October 19 at Main Street Theater - Rice Village, 2540 Times Blvd. Performances are 7:30 p.m, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m.plus one Monday evening performance on September 22. For information call 713.524.6706, or visit MainStreetTheater.com. $20-$39.
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