Colonial Players hosts tonight the East Coast premiere of Splendour, 33-year-old British playwright Abi Morgan's award-winning drama that debuted at the 2000 Edinburgh Festival.
Morgan's play is set inside the state residence of the leader of an Eastern European city that was a former Soviet bloc dictatorship, and now seems on the verge of civil war.
Inside this elegant residence are the dictator's wife, Michelline; her best friend, Genevieve; and photojournalist Kathryn, who has arrived to interview the dictator accompanied by her interpreter, Gilma. The four women await the leader's arrival.
Michelline tries to remain composed as the mob advances on the house. Kathryn tries to get news of the civil war raging outside as Gilma casually steals from the house. Adding to the complexity, Genevieve seems to be hiding something. The play reflects how each woman survives in this threatening situation.
In an atmosphere fraught with increasing fear and tension, the characters gradually reveal themselves in fragments. Described by Colonial Players as "nonlinear," the story does not develop in a straight line but instead offers "a collage of impressions" resembling stark snapshots.
Colonial informs us that in this play, time jumps back and forth. Fragments of scenes are repeated as the story unfolds bit by bit: "The fractured text reflects the disintegration of the characters' society."
Within a relatively simple plot where the action is restricted to one set, the play challenges the audience, confronted by layers of dialogue repeated and replayed with variations in a series of scenes. The play demands much of audience members as they are returned to earlier scenes with increased knowledge of each of the four characters.
We learn that the leader is not coming home, which leaves the four protagonists, after waiting an entire day for him, to confront their individual situations, including their earlier choices made out of friendship or political necessity. As the mob advances on the leader's residence, the four characters exhibit their own emotional responses to their catastrophic situation.
Splendour promises to challenge audience members who will gain insight into the quartet of characters from cumulative knowledge gathered in replayed and expanded scenes that should result in a moving theater experience.
With this contemporary production, Anne Arundel Community College professor of theater arts Barbara Marder will make her Colonial Players directorial debut.
"It's a very dark play," she said.
The cast will feature four local actresses of broad theatrical experience: Darice Clewell, Jessica Maiuzzo, Vivian Gist Spencer and Eloise Ullman.
Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, today through Feb. 18. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are priced at $10 for seniors and full-time students and $15 for adults.
For more information go to cplayers.com and to order tickets call 410-268-7272.