Rep Stage, the professional Equity theatre in residence at Howard Community College (HCC), continues its 20th anniversary season with J.M. Barrie's stirring, lyrical tale about the tricks of time, loss of innocence and eternal youth. Rep Stage veteran Christine Demuth ("Two by J.M. Barrie: The New Word and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals," "The Glass Menagerie," "Or,") stars in the title role as the girl who disappears only to return mysteriously with no memory of time passed, setting off a heartbreaking and thrilling course of events. Demuth is joined by fellow Rep veterans Maureen Kerrigan ("Two by J.M. Barrie: The New Word and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals," "A Lie of the Mind") and Bill Largess ("Two by J.M Barrie: The New Word and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals," "Travels With My Aunt"), as well as Marilyn Bennett ("Two by J.M. Barrie: The New Word and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals") and Rep newcomers Eric M. Messner and Adam Downs. Returning actor Tony Tsendeas ("Las Meninas") rounds out the cast, with Rep Stage's Producing Artistic Director Michael Stebbins ("Two by J.M. Barrie: The New Word and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals") directing. "Mary Rose" opens October 31, 2012, with a limited run through November 18 in the Studio Theatre of the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center (HVPA) on the campus of HCC. For tickets and additional information, visit www.repstage.org or call 443-518-1500.
"Mary Rose" was first produced in 1920 at the Haymarket Theatre in London following the successes of Barrie's other offerings: "Dear Brutus," "The Admiral Crichton," "What Every Woman Knows" and, of course, "Peter Pan." From the 1920s to the 1960s these Barrie plays were stalwarts of British repertory theater. "Mary Rose" had two brief Broadway productions in 1921 and again in 1951. In 1972, Mia Farrow played the title role in a London production. It was produced after many years at the Vineyard Theatre in New York City in 2007 and most recently in London at the Riverside Studios last April.
While "Peter Pan" may be Barrie's most well known play, "Mary Rose," as Charles Isherwood says in his New York Times review, "…is in many ways a more mature and mournful reworking of themes Barrie explored in the tale of the boy who refused to grow up. Time is seen as a quiet despoiler of happiness and innocence, and the lure of another world unblemished by its passing has an irresistible seduction."
In his youth, the film director Alfred Hitchcock saw the original Haymarket production in London and could never shake the story from his mind. For years he became obsessed with making the film version and in the 1960s commissioned the only screenplay for "Mary Rose" written by screenwriter Jay Presson Allen. No studio would produce the film. Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto writes that the failure to bring "Mary Rose" to the screen was "perhaps the single greatest disappointment of his creative life."
Dramatist and novelist Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937) was born in Scotland, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and then wrote prolifically for a Nottingham newspaper for two years. Determined to earn his living as a writer, he moved to London. After having some success with fiction, Barrie began writing plays in 1890s. His famous character of Peter Pan first appeared in the 1902 book "The Little White Bird." Two years later, his play "Peter Pan" premiered on the London stage and became a great success. Barrie also wrote a book based on the play called "Peter and Wendy," which was published in 1911. The book earned raves from critics. After "Peter Pan," Barrie continued writing plays primarily aimed at adults. "The Twelve-Pound Look" (1910) and "Half an Hour" (1913) both had themes of love and loss in unhappy marriages. His last major play, "Mary Rose," was produced in 1920.