“Don’t Drink the Water,” an early play by Woody Allen, is the next presentation of the Oxford Hills Music and Performing Arts Association.

The play will run March 11-19 at the Norway Grange Hall.

“It has been quite a challenge to come up with some of the unusual props we need,” said Claire Sessions, producer of the show, noting they include a straitjacket, a starter’s pistol and a few more odd things that might be found behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

Just about all of OHMPAA’s productions require accommodation to rather small stages. This one is no different, and Sessions is finding many ways to adapt to the Grange Hall limitations.

When Allen penned this script, his first for the stage, two of the main characters in the play were patterned after his own parents.

“I just pictured how my parents would react in such a situation and wrote it down,” Allen once told a reporter.

“Don’t Drink the Water” was a Broadway hit for Allen in 1966. It also was a popular 1969 movie with Jackie Gleason, and it was re-made for TV in 1994 with Woody Allen himself in the lead role.

The two characters in the play patterned after his parents are Walter and Marion Hollander.

It’s the early 1960s and the Hollanders’ European vacation is interrupted when their plane is hi-jacked and forced to land in a Third World country behind the Iron Curtain.

The Hollanders, along with their daughter, leave the plane to take pictures, and this quickly results in accsations of spying. They flee to the safety of the American Embassy, where all the action of “Don’t Drink the Water” takes place.

The American Embassy is not much of a refuge. The ambassador is absent and his son, now in charge, has been expelled from a dozen countries and the continent of Africa.

Eccentric characters abound, including a priest who has been in asylum at the embassy for so long he has taken up magic tricks to pass the time. The Hollanders proceed to complicate things by insulting the chef, tying up the phones with long distance calls and almost starting an international incident by squabbling with a Middle Eastern emir.

Nevertheless, assisted by the embassy staff, they carefully and frantically plot their escape; and the ambassador’s son and the tourists’ daughter even have time to fall in love.

OHMPAA veteran Elton Cole plays Walter Hollander and Paula Easton plays his wife. Their daughter, Susan, is played by Genevieve Bourgeois.

Axel Magee, the bumbling son of the U.S. Ambassador, is played by Peter Morrison. Chris Easton has the part of Ambassador Magee and James Magee portrays Father Drobney, the resident priest.

Krojack, the tyrannical chief of the country’s secret police, is played by Tom Littlefield.

Other roles are played by Kathy Davis, Kyle Martin, Tristan Abbott, Andrew Mills, Dennis Twitchell, Jessica Owen, Stephen Sessions and Sally Jones.

Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water” has been a perennial choice for high school and community theater groups for decades.

This production is limited to only six performances, rather than the usual OHMPAA schedule of eight shows.



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