PORTLAND – Mad Horse Theatre’s first Dark Night Series will open Monday, Oct. 13, with an original play by Mad Horse Theatre member Brent Askari and two short plays by Harold Pinter and David Mamet.

In addition, Mad Horse will present a one-night-only staged reading of “The History Boys” by Alan Bennett.

The series title refers to the fact that the plays will be presented in the Portland Stage Studio Theater Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights when the regular Mad Horse production will not be running (hence the “dark nights”).

“Cloudhoppers,” a new play by Askari, is the story of two business travelers who meet and connect while stuck in a modern airport nightmare. As their relationship deepens, their frustration with the situation mounts, leading to an explosive crescendo. Performing will be Craig Bowden and Lisa Muller-Jones; Askari will direct.

In Pinter’s “One For The Road,” an official of an unnamed totalitarian regime interviews his detainees, a husband and wife and their young son. Their crime is not revealed, but the outcome for this family is never in doubt. Pinter casts an unflinching eye on the soul-deadening impact of evil on the human spirit. The disturbing subject matter is not easy to watch, but director and Mad Horse Company member Chris Horton regards the play as a cautionary tale. “At this time in the life of our nation, we avert our eyes from this brutal vision at our own peril,” he said.

Performing will be David Currier and Bowden, and guest artists Janice Gardner and Eliot Nye. Original music for the play will be composed and performed by Denis Nye.

“Mr. Happiness,” by David Mamet, offers a different vision. It is the Depression, FDR’s New Deal is making life better for millions and Mr. Happiness is the host of a popular radio program. He reads letters sent to him by listeners seeking advice. Mr. Happiness dispenses common-sense wisdom and urges listeners to reach out to one another. Horton considers the positive message “an antidote, if you will, to Pinter’s dark vision.” Performing will be Peter Brown; Horton will direct.

The Dark Series will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 13-15, and Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct 21-22, at The Studio Theater at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave. Admission is pay what you can. Suggested donation: $10.

The staged reading of “The History Boys” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20. Admission is free. The play, recipient of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Play, was selected as a companion piece with similar themes to “The Children’s Hour,” the company’s concurrent main-stage offering. Brown, who is also Mad Horse associate artistic director, will direct the reading.

“The History Boys” follows the exploits of eight high-school seniors in a British boys school in the 1980s as they strive to get into Oxford and Cambridge, assisted by four faculty members with very different teaching styles and educational priorities. This moving comedy explores the anarchy of adolescence, the nature of history and how it should be taught and the overall purpose of education.

“The Children’s Hour,” by Lillian Hellman, centers on Karen and Martha, who run a school for girls. A malicious youngster starts a dangerous and unfounded rumor about the nature of Karen and Martha’s relationship. Rumor turns to scandal, and scandal – to tragedy.

Due to its controversial nature, the play was banned in Chicago, Boston, and London during its premiere in 1934, though applauded by critics throughout the world.

“The Children’s Hour” will be presented Oct. 9-26, at The Studio Theater with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday; at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12 and 19; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26. It will also be presented Nov. 6-16 at the Maine State Ballet Theater, 348 U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Saturday matinees have yet to be determined.

For reservations or more information, call the Mad Horse box office at 730-2389 or e-mail [email protected]

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