Brandon Derk (above, from left to right), Brian Phillip Stewart, Kayla Snabl, Joshua L.H. Anderson, Gray Schierholt and Gracie Taylor star in the Hanover College production of “Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline.” Below, Gracie Taylor and Kayla Snabl pose from a scene from the play “Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline,” at Hanover College on Tuesday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Brandon Derk (above, from left to right), Brian Phillip Stewart, Kayla Snabl, Joshua L.H. Anderson, Gray Schierholt and Gracie Taylor star in the Hanover College production of “Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline.” Below, Gracie Taylor and Kayla Snabl pose from a scene from the play “Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline,” at Hanover College on Tuesday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Themes of good and evil will emerge this weekend when a dark, romantic comedy debuts at Hanover College.

"Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline" begins its run today at 7:30 p.m. at Hanover College. The shows will run through Sunday at the same time. The show is about two hours long.

Inspired by the Gothic novel, "Zastrozzi: A Romance," by the English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, the play takes place in 1893. Zastrozzi, the master criminal of all of Europe and a self-proclaimed atheist, has focused for nearly three years on the pursuit of revenge against the murderer of his mother, the whimsical, inconstant and delusive, God-obsessed artist Verezzi, according to a release from the college.

With the help of his heartless protégé Bernardo and his sometimes lover, the seductress Matilda, Zastrozzi chases Verezzi to a small town in the Italian countryside and engineers an elaborate plot to destroy his enemy. But while Verezzi may be an easy target, his tutor, Victor, a former priest, presents a much more difficult challenge.

The play was written by Canadian playwright George F. Walker and is being directed by Hanover College professor Jim Stark.

The performance isn't for the faint of heart, Stark said.

"People should know that it would probably be rated R for mature themes," he said.

In addition to violence and deaths portrayed on the stage, there is graphic language and sexual content in the dialogue.

The show stars six upperclassmen, all of whom are trained in swordfighting, which plays a prominent role in the story.

"It was time to have a try at this," Stark said.

This is Stark's first attempt at telling this story. The show has been modernized to take a more contemporary look at the issues in the story, which include a look at religion and philosophy, love and courtship and how those issues play into life and everyday problems.

"This is a modern retelling of that story. It's about the struggle between good and evil," Stark said.

This is the last Hanover theater production this academic year. Stark said despite all the possible setbacks they could have faced during the production, they haven't hit any snags.

"I think this is one that has gone smoother than expected," Stark said. "This is one of the times things have gone together well."

The cast includes Gray Schierholt as Zastrozzi, Joshua L. H. Anderson as Bernardo, Brian Phillip Stewart as Verezzi, Brandon Derk as Victor, Gracie Taylor as Matilda, and Kayla Snabl as Julia.

Will Griffith is in charge of set design. Summer Kennedy is handling light design and Caleb Beidelman is handling sound design. Han Zaw is the composer and Rebecca Trout is in charge of costume design. Snabl and Stark are the fight choreographers.