The setting of “Burnt by the Sun,” a summer day in 1936 in the Soviet Union, right before the beginning of the Great Purge, is far removed from 2018 America, but director Lorna Hamilton sees a few similarities between the two.
“I see a lot of parallels with what we’re going through in this country right now as far as capitalism versus socialism and who gets what,” she said. “There’s a lot of parallels so it’s really a thought-provoking piece.”
Hamilton directs Stage Left Theater’s production of playwright Peter Flannery’s “Burnt by the Sun,” which opens Friday and runs through March 11.
“Burnt by the Sun” is based on the 1994 movie of the same name by Russian director and screenwriter Nikita Mikhalkov, who also starred in the film, and Azerbaijani screenwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov.
The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1994 and the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, also in 1994.
Flannery’s stage adaptation of the film opened in London in 2009.
In “Burnt by the Sun,” a senior Red Army officer named General Kotov (Charles Fletcher) is troubled by rumors of a purge of the members of the Communist Party and government officials.
To make the day even more complicated, a former nobleman and White Army veteran named Mitia (Duncan Menzies), who happens to be the former fiancee of Kotov’s wife Maroussia (Julie Watts), arrives.
“Burnt by the Sun” also stars Addy McAllister (Nadia), Adrienne Dellwo (Olga), Rebecca Bolster (Mokhova), Mike Noel (Vsevolod), Jennifer Simmons (Lidia), Shane Daniels (Kolya), Dallan Starks (Adrushya), Eliot Drushella (Kirik), Colton Sullivan (truck driver), Steven Schneidmiller (Mironov), Bill Bancroft (Blokhin), Kimiko Nishimori (Anna) and Rebecca Basta (Floss).
“The people we ended up with couldn’t have been more perfect,” Hamilton said. “I feel so blessed because the cast has been so hardworking and they fit the roles.”
Hamilton notes that because “Burnt by the Sun” was translated from Russian into English, the play features humor that some members of the audience might not understand.
To counter this, the play features four characters who provide a bit of comic relief.
“The content of the play can be very heavy so they’ve thrown in these characters to give us a rest and a little bit of maybe some giggles, nothing hilarious,” Hamilton said. “It’s just a little bit of relief until we get back into the heavy content.”
While preparing to direct “Burnt by the Sun,” Hamilton began researching the Bolshevik Revolution and the Great Purge.
To educate audience members who might not know much about that period in Russian history, Hamilton asked Schneidmiller to put together a prologue of sorts that features images of things mentioned in the play, like airships, that will play before about 15 minutes before the start of the play.
“I thought ‘Let’s put some pictures out for the audience so when we refer to it in the play, at least they have a reference,’ ” Hamilton said.
Hamilton believes “Burnt by the Sun” fits Stage Left’s mission to produce shows that provide commentary that’s relevant to today’s audiences.
She hopes that as audience members leave the show, they take a moment for contemplation.
“What I want is for people to go to this play then when they leave, they don’t go to Charley’s (Grill and Spirits) and talk and have fun, they go and they want to be by themselves and think about what they saw then talk about it later,” she said. “I want it to affect them like that. If we do our job, they’ll be affected.”