Dana Professor of Theater Martin Andrucki directs “Little Egypt” as part of a course taking place during Short Term, the college’s intensive five-week spring semester.

Mother Faye and her adult daughters, the hot ticket Bernadette and the nerdish lost soul Celeste, work together as waitresses while negotiating volatile love affairs with, respectively, the mayor of Cairo; an aggressive jerk called Watson; and Watson’s roommate Victor, a shy, goofy security guard suffering the effects of military service in Vietnam.

Audiences “will really be able to relate to these characters,” said Andrucki. “These are hardworking ordinary folks, the kind of people you meet in everyday life.”

Commissioned by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, “Little Egypt” is set in the town of Cairo, Illinois, and takes its name from the nickname of the state’s southern third. It debuted in 1987 and was later adapted as a musical by New York City’s Playwrights Horizons.

Accounts vary as to how Illinois’ Little Egypt got its nickname. One explanation is that the region, bordered on three sides by major rivers, resembles Egypt’s Nile Valley. The Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet at Cairo, and Andrucki — without revealing how the river will be depicted on stage — notes that it runs right through the play’s plot, so to speak.

Celeste, who returns to Cairo after 12 years in college, originally fled “shortly after her father committed suicide in the river,” Andrucki says. “The river has a kind of spiritual aura throughout the play. A number of important scenes are set at the river’s edge, including the last scene, which is the emotional resolution for one of the two sisters.”

Playing the role of Faye is sophomore Allie Freed from Magnolia, Mass. Daughter Bernadette is a New York City native, senior Singha Hon, and daughter Celeste is another New Yorker, Colette Girardin, a sophomore from East Moriches, N.Y.

Sam James, a first-year student from Raleigh, N.C., portrays Watson, while Ciaran Walsh, a junior hailing from Washington, D.C., plays Victor. Rounding out the cast of characters is junior Jon Schwolsky of North Caldwell, N.J., as Hugh.

Behind the scenes, “Little Egypt” stage manager is Benjamin Cuban, a sophomore from Worcester, Mass., and assistant stage manager is first-year student Jacqueline Copper from Hazel Crest, Ill. Chris Makrides, a senior from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, is props master.

In addition to Andrucki, faculty members involved in the production are sound, lighting and set designers Michael Reidy and Justin Moriarty; and Carol Farrell, costume designer.

Performances take place in Bates’ Gannett Theater, 305 College St. Tickets cost $6 and $3 for students and seniors 65-plus, and are available at batestickets.com. For more information, call 207-786-6161.

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