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Love Makes 'Brief Encounter' At St. Ann's Warehouse

Monday, December 07, 2009

Boy meets girl at train station. Boy and girl fall in love on the spot. Boy and girl are already in other relationships. Tortured affair ensues.

That's the plot of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter, though it could double as a Craigslist "Missed Connections" ad.  The play makes it New York debut tomorrow at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn.

Set at a railway station in 1938 England, the play centers around Laura, a bored and beautiful housewife, and Alec, the hot doctor in town.  The pair bump into other when Laura gets a speck of dirt stuck in her eye. How convenient. That leads to a polite cup of tea..then a movie...just as "friends." Too bad for that whole "married" thing.

Emma Rice is Artistic Director of the Cornwall, England based Kneehigh Theatre Company. She says, "Brief Encounter itself is a phenomenal portrait of the struggle of trying to be good against different instincts." Rice adapted the show from the 1946 film of the same name and based on Still Life, a Noël Coward one-act play. She also added some original stage elements back in, like music, that got scrapped in the movie.

"It’s one of the best-loved film in Britain, and I'm going to make a play out of it," she says. "The one thing I'm not going to do is pretend that it hasn't been a film. And I'm also not going to deny the fact we're in a theater."

Scenes go back-and-forth from the stage to remade black-and-white footage, giving it an old-timey feel. At various points, actors even climb into the screens, very much in the vein of A-Ha's "Take On Me" video.

To Rice, "It's about impossible love, it's about first love and it's about second-round time love – all its joys and all its miseries."

Brief Encounter runs through January 3.

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