Even though it’s set in 1950s,  “The Desperate Hours,” Theater Works’ latest drama, might seem as if it’s ripped right out of today’s headlines.

The classic thriller, which opens Friday at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, follows a family taken hostage by three escaped convicts.

Jerry Morrison, director of “The Desperate Hours,” said the play’s theme parallels recent incidents he’s seen in the news, including the shootings in Tucson.

“This stuff still happens today, whether we like it or not,” said Morrison. “Our lives could be turned upside down in the blink of an eye by some criminal element.”

Morrison said the 1955 Tony Award-winning play perfectly mixes elements of an intense thriller and police procedural.

“It’s what I consider a 1950s version of what ‘CSI’ would be without the forensics, with the police working on hunches and clues,” Morrison said.

“The Desperate Hours” revolves around Glenn Griffin, the leader of a trio of escaped convicts who invade the Hilliard family’s suburban home and hold members of the family hostage. The police organize a manhunt for the escapees and eventually discover the complicated situation.

The drama first debuted on Broadway in 1955 with Paul Newman as Griffin, and the following year Humphrey Bogart portrayed the same role in the film adaptation.

For Morrison, “The Desperate Hours” is a simple story of good versus evil.

“When push comes to shove, all human beings are capable of violence or heroic strength, and this story points that out very clearly,” he said.

Theater Works Artistic Director Robyn Allen said she believes the play centers on the importance of being in a family and sticking together.

“Sometimes we take things and people for granted, until we get into certain circumstances that make you realize how important people are in our lives,” Allen said.

In addition to the themes, Allen said she thought “The Desperate Hours” would be the perfect play to dust off the shelves and bring a fresh approach.

“It’s one that’s not done too often in theaters, and even though it’s still set in the 1950s, we’re still bringing a fresh 2011 eye to it,” Allen said.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: “The Desperate Hours.”

WHEN: Friday through Feb. 13.

WHERE: Theater Works, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, 8355 W. Peoria Ave., Peoria.

TICKETS: $33, adults; $23, students.

INFO: Call the box office at 623-815-7930 or www.theaterworks.org.

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