The suspense thriller “Lascaux” came to playwright Kevin O’Leary from below. There’s always something lurking underneath, he says.
The play, which gets its premiere this month from Portland’s Pie Man Theatre Co., takes its name from the cave complex in France that is home to hundreds of prehistoric cave paintings. O’Leary, who lives in Portland and teaches theater at Morse High School in Bath, finds the art haunting and beautiful, and was drawn, almost like a magnet, to write a play about the caves.
It continues through Sunday at Mayo Street Arts in Portland.
“Lascaux” is based on the real-life discovery of the prehistoric cave paintings in France in 1940, and two characters are named after the young men who discovered the caves. But the play is fiction, and the mystery lies in the secrets that exist among the those men and the psychiatrist who brings them back together much later in life. Marcel Ravidat, the French minister of culture, receives an urgent plea to visit a mental health facility in the country where, for the past decade, Dr. Katherine Terrine-Gervaise has been secretly treating a childhood friend of Ravidat, Simon Coencas. He was lost and presumed dead the day the Lascaux caves were discovered.
The play centers on the meeting of the three and is full of mystery, deception, loss and love, said director Stephanie Ross.
“The play speaks to me about the possibility of redemption, that there is always a chance if we can realize our faults and have the strength to move forward on a different path,” she said. “This play speaks of tormented souls and the effects of those torments. Nothing is black and white. There is depth to all our stories, buried sometimes so deeply it is beyond our own awareness.”
Ultimately the play is about forgiving oneself, she said.
Ross attended a reading of “Lascaux” at Mad Horse Theatre Company and began talking with O’Leary about producing it soon after. She was intrigued by the twists and turns of the story and its use of an historical event for its characters and actions. Those characters, she said, are all flawed, and their secrets dangerous.
It features a cast of three: Josh Brassard, Mary Fraser and JP Guimont.
Ross and O’Leary worked together on this production. O’Leary attended rehearsals to answer questions, talk about his ideas and inspiration and make changes. Ross saw some things differently in the play than O’Leary and suggested making one character more sympathetic by portraying him as tragic instead of evil.
The collaborative process of producing “Lascaux” embodies the mission of the theater company, which has been dedicated to staging original work by contemporary playwrights since it was founded in 2015.
“That’s our mission,” Ross said. “Our season always consists of two original plays and one classic play. The classic plays we all know and love were at one time original plays that someone took a chance on.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland
TICKETS & INFO: $20, $15 seniors, $10 students with ID; 619-4885 or piemantheatre.org/box-office.