The Empire Theatre Company will stage a new production, “The Moors,” opening Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Empire Arts Center, 415 DeMers Ave.
Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays from Jan. 30 to Feb. 15.
The show, a dark period comedy set on the moors of England in the mid-1800s, is reminiscent of “Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and the Bronte sisters,” said Nathan Haltiwanger, program manager at the Empire Arts Center, 415 DeMers Ave.
But the play, by Jen Silverman, resonates with today’s audiences, said Chris Berg, the show’s director and set designer.
Its subject matter offers thought-provoking themes dealing with “gender, the roles of women, power dynamics, sisterhood, relationships -- all of those things,” said Berg, artistic director of the Empire Theatre Company.
The play tells the story of two sisters who live in a run-down manse on the moors, a bleak and savage landscape, where the elder sister, Agatha, commands the house, leaving the younger, Huldey, trapped in her shadow.
But when a hapless governess arrives, lies are revealed and loyalties shift, as the residents are set on a strange and dangerous path -- until someone reaches her breaking point.
The period piece, a riff on the lives and works of certain 19th century novel-writing sisters, is a dark contemporary comedy that examines the universal themes of love, power and the longing to be seen.
The play “kind of pays homage to the Brontes,” Berg said. “Their stuff was super dark.”
The dark qualities of the play are derived from the setting and the subject matter, he said.
“The moors, where it takes place, was a very bleak place in the 1800s. But also, with dark comedies, you’re laughing and thinking, ‘Oh, this is sad as well,” but it’s also funny -- you know, like the sad-clown-face kind of thing.”
As artistic director of the Empire Theatre Company, Berg said: “We like to do new things, we like to do different things -- and (this play) is both of those things. It’s very new, it’s exciting (and) very smartly written -- which I love. Jen Silverman is an excellent playwright.”
The play “makes me laugh and it makes me think; I think those are some of the most important things you should be doing when you’re attending theater -- or watching or reading anything,” Berg said.
He expects the audience will most enjoy “the performances by my wonderful actors,” he said, “and the story -- it’s a great story.”
Cast members are Nicole Quam, Chloe Bellione, Rachel Rebishchke, Abby Plumley, Walter Criswell and Amy Lyste.
The production’s crew includes Katy Bushaw, stage manager, Haltiwanger, vocal coach, Lyste, scenic painter, Camilla Morrison, costumer, and Alexander Blue Weber, light board operator.
Performances will be staged in the Black Box Theatre Studio E.
Tickets, all general admission, are $20 for adults and $16 for students and military.
A limited number of rush tickets are available at the door, for cash only, one hour before all Thursday performances. All members of the party must be present to purchase, Haltiwanger said.
For more information or to purchase tickets, go online to www.empireartscenter.com or call the Empire Arts Center at (701) 746-5500.