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Adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel opens at 7:30 p.m. on May 12 in the Performing Arts Center at Rose Villa in Oak Grove

Throughout New Century Players' upcoming presentation of "Persuasion," audiences will wonder if the feelings between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth will prevail or if a flirtatious beauty, a charming con man, and haunting memories of the past will tear the two apart for good.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Anne (Carlyn Blount) is again in the middle, this time between two charming young men, above, played by Dirk Foley, left, and Mason Vancil. Those questions will be answered starting May 12 when the adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel opens at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Rose Villa in Oak Grove.

The play continues at 7:30 p.m. May 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27 and at 2 p.m. May 14 and 21.

The play "follows the love story between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Eight years after their broken engagement, [they] are thrown together again, their situations reversed — he is wealthy, and her family is struggling to pay their debts," said director Kraig Williams.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Director Kraig Williams watches a scene between Tiffany Dixon and Dirk Foley.  "The audience will find that Anne and all the other characters are very relatable. The audience will more than likely know someone who acts like the characters they are seeing on the stage, and I think that'll help invest the audience further into the story," he said.

Williams added, "New Century Players has had much success with plays along these lines. This Jane Austen story has the heartfelt story, along with comedy that our audiences enjoy."

Two main roles

Carlyn Blount plays the role of Anne in the show and says her character is "very passionate and loves being of service to people."

Although it seems as if Anne's own family does not always appreciate her, "When she can help, she feels she can do some good. She is looking for a place where she's actually wanted."

What Blount likes best about her character is "she has an incredible amount of empathy, love and feelings. She becomes more and more brave, strong and assertive as she learns to value herself and reach for the happiness she thought she had lost."

A simple sailor when Wentworth first met Anne, he has now returned with a dramatic change in his status and prospects as a husband.

"He is a very successful Navy man with a fortune," said Dirk Foley, who plays the role.

His character goes through a "journey of discovery, when he recognizes that he still loves [Anne], who had broken his heart," Foley said. "He's humble, he's gallant, and he has some really clear values in terms of women and romance."

Simplifying the original

Williams said the biggest challenge for him in directing "Persuasion" was choosing to scale down the set and props.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Anne Elliot (Carlyn Blount) finds herself in the middle between two couples, above, played by Nate Walker and Erin Bickler and Dirk Foley and Tiffany Dixon. "That part took some getting used to for me, but it does allow for the acting to become the true star of the show," he said. "Probably the biggest challenge for the actors was the accents and getting used to the proper etiquette of British culture back then."

The most fun, he said, "has been working with my cast and crew. It's been an incredible experience seeing them grow as actors and having them support one another in this process. It's always the best part of being in theater."

This version of "Persuasion" was written by Jennifer LeBlanc, and the cast and crew had the opportunity to meet her.

"She was very generous and kind in coming to meet us while she was visiting Portland. She spent a couple of hours with us, giving great insight on her inspirations and her knowledge of Jane Austen's world," Williams said.

Audience reaction

Audiences will like the show, Blount said, because everyone loves a good love triangle.

"Persuasion" is "romantic, but not a cliché. What is really great about Jane Austen is how she manages to have characters that are flawed, but still lovable," she added.

"It's a really entertaining story; a delightful story that harkens back to the values and qualities that humankind now needs to take a look at," Foley said.

"If we do everything right, the audience will be transported to turn of the century England, a delightful and very different time.

Actors take on Jane Austen

What: New Century Players Community Theatre presents "Persuasion," an adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel.

When: 7:30 p.m. May 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27 and 2 p.m. May 14 and 21

Where: Rose Villa Performing Arts Center, 13505 S.E. River Road, in Oak Grove

Details: Tickets are available at the door and online at NewCenturyPlayers.org or call 503-367-2620

Meet the director: Kraig Williams has appeared in numerous theater productions over 20 years. This is his fourth show with NCP. He has played Max in "Lend Me a Tenor," Manolo in "The Odd Couple" (female version) and Mr. Mayhew in "Witness for the Prosecution." This is his first time directing for NCP.

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