To begin at the beginning: It is not spring and, unless there is a thick cloud cover, the nights will be neither moonless nor starless when a local band of actors and friends present “Under Milk Wood” in the small city by the fishingboatbobbing seas. Nonetheless, Dylan Thomas’ famous play for voices should receive a dreamy reading Friday and Saturday, Feb. 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. at downtown Åarhus Gallery.

Midwinter is just the right time for such an endeavor in the lulled and dumbfound town, according to director Larason Guthrie. Not that he has anything against Belfast’s summer crowd, but “I wanted to perform it for the people I know and love here.”

Guthrie, an architect who is one of the founders of the Belfast Maskers and is a longtime local theater denizen, also wanted to present a show in one of his favorite places, a venue not really big enough for a seasonal audience.

“I’m especially happy to do this at Åarhus; I love the gallery and the people who run it,” he said.

Guthrie first got the idea of staging something theatrical last year when he was a reader in Åarhus’ as if stories, a series of occasional readings of works by Maine authors by local actors.

“I thought, could we do a play in here? I wonder WHAT play we could do in here,” he said.

The answer to the second question came easily. About 10 years ago, he played Captain Cat in a Belfast Maskers’ stage adaptation of “Under Milk Wood,” which originally was written for radio. It’s a role he recalls fondly; the blind Captain Cat doesn’t have much stage movement but serves as a mediator for the audience as they “observe” what is, for a good part of the work, the dreams of the characters on stage.

It was not Guthrie’s only connection to the play. For a number of years, he directed Belfast Area High School’s entry to the Maine Drama Festival’s one-act play competition, where Thomas’ humorous multi-character work is a perennial choice.

“I did it twice with them, and Shakespeare and Aristophanes … I love classic plays. They’re still great, after all these years,” he said.

“Under Milk Wood” is a 20th-century classic. It presents a day in the life of the small Welsh seaside village of Llareggub (a word that looks Welsh enough, but read it backwards). Thomas describes a town boasting less than 500 souls, three quaint streets, narrow by-lanes and scattered farmsteads — “this small, decaying watering place which may, indeed, be called a ‘backwater of life’ without disrespect to its natives who possess, to this day, a salty individuality of their own.”

“It’s a little small town rather like this little small town, filled with these interesting characters,” Guthrie said.

The voices of those 60-some characters will be read by Guthrie of Belfast, Lisa Goodrich and Peter Conant of Appleton, Richard and Beverly Mann of Belfast, Jennifer DeJoy of Belfast and Michael Fletcher of Jackson. Fletcher will take on Captain Cat in this production; Guthrie will do the First Voice, a quasi-narrator who has some of the works’ most wonderful wordplay including the opening that is parodied at the beginning of this story.

“It’s so much fun, the actors love it,” said Guthrie, who began gathering his company of friends and fellow artists about three months ago.

It’s fun for Guthrie to be on the boards again too. He has had to use a battery-operated scooter to get around the last few years, but said of late his retirement from theater has seemed premature.

“This year, I really missed acting, being on stage. My first love is architecture, but I love theater just as much,” he said.

It’s hard not to love the cast of characters Thomas created in “Under Milk Wood,” from Mog Edwards, a draper mad with love, to Organ Morgan, “a man who is a Bach fanatic and loves to play organ more than pay attention to his wife.” Lincoln Clapp is putting together a soundtrack of sorts to go with the staged reading and it will include some bits of Bach.

“Music is suggested in the script. Polly Garter has a song, there’s a French children’s song and Peter Conant has a ribald ditty at the end,” Guthrie said.

The real music in “Under Milk Wood,” however, is in the language. This really is a work to be read aloud and now that Guthrie and his company have shaped their presentation, there is the possibility their production will be reprised in the future, perhaps during the summer’s Maine Celtic Festival.

“It’s really exceptionally written,” said Guthrie. “It’s a loving tribute to the reality of life.”

Seating is limited at Åarhus Gallery, 50 Main St. There will be a suggested donation of $7 at the door. For more information, call 338-0001 or visit

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to