Bob Potter, Santa Barbara’s answer to Bertolt Brecht, has a new production and a very promising new cast and director lined up for his latest play, Last Days of the Empire, which opens at Center Stage Theater on Friday, February 22. Veteran director and audience favorite Maurice Lord helms this historical double-helix, which is set in the desert of Egypt around the blasted remains of a Nazi tank. Characters from a wide range of centuries will mingle and converse as Potter takes his usual “no prisoners” approach to the laws of space, time, and motion. Sylvia Short plays Hypatia, a historical figure from Alexandria circa 400 ce, best known for her pioneering work as a mathematician. Known as a defender of science against religion (particularly the increasingly influential cult of Christianity), Hypatia was stoned to death by a Coptic Christian mob, but, under Potter’s playwright’s spell, she has risen again to flirt with Synesius (Tom Hinshaw) and argue with a Nazi soldier (Matt Tavianini). Tiffany Story will portray American oil publicist Mindy Yarborough, who suddenly finds herself adrift among this hyper-historical crew.
Potter’s aim is, as usual, to get people thinking-and to have some fun doing it. He says that the show represents “what I love best, which is putting politics, history, fiction, and myth together. It doesn’t always work, but there’s real excitement in the exploring of it.” For his part, Lord said that he was delighted to find that this opportunity was available to him, saying, “I’ve got a uniformed Nazi onstage conversing with someone in a toga. Why shouldn’t I be happy? This is such a great creative stretch for all of us, and such a fun homegrown creative project. When I read it, the script was just so different from the usual things I see that I couldn’t resist. I am just happy that I was able to weasel my way on board.”
Last Days of Empire will play at the Center Stage Theater at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, February 22 and 23, and then again the following week, Thursday through Saturday, February 28, 29, and March 1. For more information or tickets, call 963-0408 or visit centerstagetheater.org.