Almost one hundred years ago, homosexuality was outlawed in Great Britain.
That may have been the impetus for E.M. Forster to pen “Maurice,” a novel he began in 1913 that remained unpublished until after his death in 1971.
The stage version is now making its U.S. debut at New Conservatory Theatre Center in The City.
The wonderfully crafted “boy loves boy, boy loses boy, boy learns to love” endeavor was something director George Maguire says he “jumped at.”
For him, bringing the emotionally charged drama to the stage, and keeping its original verve intact, is directly related to the show’s performers.
“Having been an actor, and still being an actor, it’s not about me, it’s about them. That’s what makes the work resonate — it’s all about the casting. I was very fortunate to get a terrific cast,” Maguire says.
Soren Santos plays the title role, a Cambridge student who suddenly finds himself with an unexpected suitor, his friend Clive (Alex Kirschner). Clive’s affections shift after a trip abroad — he announces plans to marry a woman — which only further confuses Maurice.
Andrew Nolan co-stars as Scudder, creating an interesting character triangle. Scudder eventually tells Maurice there is a place where they can run off and be together.
One intriguing, underlying element to the play is the question of whether Maurice will come into his own or live a life that is a lie; at one point, a physician attempts to redirect Maurice’s sexual inclinations.
Rounding out the cast are John Hurst, Hilary Hyatt (in her NCTC debut) and Lindsey Murray, who also assisted the cast with dialects.
A Merchant-Ivory film version of “Maurice,” starring James Wilby and Hugh Grant, hit the screen in 1987, more than 15 years after the book was finally published and almost two decades after the release of groundbreaking movie “Boys in the Band.”
“That film was a depressing look at gay male life,” Maguire says. “And this is the direct opposite. This is a ‘happy’ ending. And that alone makes it a fascinating piece to deal with, especially as a director.”
Presented by New Conservatory Theatre Center
Where: 25 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes March 25
Tickets: $18 to $40
Contact: (415) 861-8972 or www.nctcsf.org