WINFIELD - When the United States is invaded in the 1960s by a country using bows and arrows as its chief weapons and with a motto, "Forward, regardless of the consequences," you just know something funny has to happen.
And it does, all through "The Mouse That Roared," South Carroll High School's Stagelighters' fall production at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the auditorium.
The 1963 script by Leonard Wibberly, who wrote the story of the same title in 1955, and Christopher Sergel is a farce that will either make you worry more about Iraq, or set you to wondering if there is a way to peace after all.
"There's a small, backward European country in economic difficulty," explained Mike Hoover, drama teacher and director. "They figure to go to war with the U.S. and lose, because any country that loses reaps a lot of economic benefits."
The country, Grand Fenwick, is going to war with the United States because a California company has stolen the nation's wine. Grand Fenwick attacks in New York, capturing Professor Kokintz, who has just invented the bomb of the future, quadium, or the Q-bomb.
Grand Fenwick holds Kokintz and a small, but deadly, supply of quadium hostage for $1 million, plus 12 dozen pomegranates for its princess, Gloriana the 12th.
The story features veteran student actors, as well as many new faces.
"This is a rebuilding year for us," Hoover noted. "A lot of senior actors graduated (last June), so we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores in this. But we have so many talented kids here, and they're coming out and getting involved in things more this year."
With 33 performers in the play, there aren't really the standard lead actors and supporting roles, but rather a number of major characters.
Princess Gloriana is played by Cynthia Green, a senior stage veteran.
Newcomer Brian Irons, a junior, portrays Tully Bascom, a somewhat dimwitted, but loyal, forest ranger in Grand Fenwick, who is recruited to instigate the war on the United States.
Hoover made some changes in the play on the American side, giving the roles of the president and Professor Kokintz to young women, though the differences aren't pointed out in the production.
"We're not trying to overplay that because it's a farce anyway," said Jeanette Schmitz, 15, who plays Madame President. She is the daughter of Bob and Barbara Schmitz of Woodbine.
A member of the Drama Club who "just likes to act," the sophomore said she tried out for the part because "Mr. Hoover told me he thought I'd be good for the part -- he thought I had authority."
For senior Vanessa Lee, 17, the part of the eccentric nuclear physicist, Professor Kokintz, is her first attempt at acting and one that mirrors her own personality.
"I'm an eccentric person myself," she said. "Well, everybody else thinks I'm odd and weird and different. Nothing embarrasses me, so I just do whatever I feel like doing."
Vanessa is the daughter of George and Lois Kuck of Mount Airy.
Another American in the war, General Snippet, is played by senior Matthew Palmerton, who says his character "radiates suspicion in everyone he meets and interacts with."
But, in the end, the play does have a lesson.
"The end is a kind of cliffhanger, but you still get the whole picture," said Matt, 17, the son of Maurice and Elaine Palmerton of Mount Airy.
"It's almost satire," he said. "Even though you're laughing at it, you definitely should take something out of it -- maybe that there's always another peace weapon."
Besides Hoover and the actors, there's a backstage and lighting crew of 15 to 20 students. Stage managers are Kelley Wachter and Leigh Anne Reger. Set and technical work is handled by science teacher Robert Foor-Hogue.
Two parents, Jeanine Blair and Jan Goodell, made the costumes and props for the play.
So, take a break from the Persian Gulf crisis and come out and see how this little war is handled. And bring the family -- it's fun for all.
Tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens. They can be purchased at the door or in advance at the school by calling 795-8500.