The world premiere of “Riding the Comet” reveals a World War II-era drama that centers on a farming family living in German-occupied France just days following D-Day. The family is part of the Comet Escape Line, a secret underground railroad designed to help wayward Allied soldiers get back to London. When the family harbors two American GIs, a plan is set in motion to return them safely to England. As the family endures the horrors of war, the eldest daughter, Linette, and her nine-year-old sister, Andie, become key players in a dangerous mission.
Playwright Mark Violi says that the Comet Escape Line did actually exist. It was begun in 1940 by a young Belgian woman. By war’s end, British Intelligence estimated the Comet Line aided over 5,000 Allied soldiers.
“This play is about fear,” says Violi, “and the different ways people will deal with a terrifying situation. I’ve tried to write a script that constantly builds tension and raises the stakes for the characters. There’s definitely a sense that something big is going to happen.”
“Riding the Comet,” which opens on Friday, September 16, and runs through Sunday, October 2, launches the 16th season of Actors NET. The play was well received as a staged reading held at the NET in May, 2009. Violi, a Hamilton resident, then reworked his script, and it was accepted to be mounted as a full production.
Violi’s first play was “Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge.” He has also written several screenplays, having optioned two comedy scripts to producers in Hollywood and New York. A well-known central Jersey actor most recently seen as Lt. Dan Kaffee in “A Few Good Men” at Kelsey Theater, Violi has dozens of stage, film, television, and commercial roles to his credit.
As for the play’s surprise ending, Violi says: “When the final punch is delivered, I think the audience will be shocked, saddened, and relieved all at once. It’s pretty powerful.”
“Riding the Comet,” the Heritage Center, 635 North Delmorr Avenue (Route 22), Morrisville, PA. Opening night, Friday, September 16. Runs through Sunday, October 2. $20; $17, seniors; and $15, children under 13. Special veteran discounts. 215-295-3694 or www.actorsnetbucks.org.