One of the things we see more in Portland is a greater depth of plays. This city has many more smaller theater companies than other cities its size, and that means we get shows that typically wouldn’t play here.

The latest example is Keith Reddin’s “Life During Wartime,” which opens tonight at the Studio Theatre of Portland Stage Company. It’s being presented by the Dramatic Repertory Company, which has been doing shows for a little more than a year.

“Life During Wartime” is a dark comedy that probes the difference between feeling secure and being secure, said the company’s artistic director, Keith Powell Beyland.

“It’s a show that I saw in the early 1990s in New York as a small production in a small theater just like the Studio Theatre, with a cast of all these people you would recognize now, like William H. Macy,” he said.

“I just really liked the play. It has some absurdist elements to it, and it keeps audiences off guard. There are things presented in it that you don’t normally see. You’ve got this story about this guy selling security systems, and then John Calvin wants on stage and gives his unique perspective of what’s going on.”

The play center around Tommy, portrayed here by Matt Delamater. Tommy sells security systems door to door. He succeeds at his job by finding people who live in fear. Everything shifts a bit when religious reformer John Calvin (played by Peter Brown) shows up.

The rest of the cast includes many familiar names on the Portland theater scene: Brian Chamberlain, Elizabeth Lardie, Christine Penney, Andrew Sawyer and Casey Turner. Beyland directs.

This is the final show of the season for DRC, and its fifth overall. In the year-plus of its existence, DRC has established itself as a company that is willing to do hard-edged and generally newer shows. Beyland has said he wants to bring plays to Portland that typically would not be staged north of Boston.

“Life During Wartime” is one of those plays, a complex and maybe complicated show with swirling ideas.

“There are the events of the play, but then there are these larger ideas floating around, over and within the scenes,” Beyland said. “There are these seemingly random moments that, once you put them all together, are not random at all.”

The key to the success of this show is the cast. Beyland has worked with enough actors in town now that he has established a rapport with a number of them. Most of the actors involved in “Life” are known for their work with other companies, including Mad Horse, Snowlion Rep, Good Theater and others.

Beyland is optimistic that his company is gaining a solid reputation for its work and attracting talented people.

“It is very gratifying to work with a strong ensemble of actors,” he said. “They are consummate professionals and committed performers, and it is wonderful for such a young company such as DRC to be able to draw on such a strong talent.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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