It's a well-regarded play by one of the great writers of the 20th century.
So it's a bit of mystery why W. Somerset Maugham's "Our Betters" is so obscure and so seldom performed.
"A lot of people haven't heard of it," said New York actress Katie Cunningham, who plays one of the leads in the Asolo Repertory Theatre's production, which opens Friday. "In fact, I hadn't heard of it until I was preparing for auditions."
The play has had two Broadway runs, but the most recent was a very long time ago. It closed in June of 1928. There was also a film version, directed by George Cukor, in 1933.
The only recent major production, at least on this side of the Atlantic, was two years ago in Canada.
It may be a play whose time has come again, though. It's almost impossible to fail to notice similarities between "Our Betters" and the popular phenomenon that is "Downton Abbey."
It's set among the mansions of the British aristocracy in the early part of the last century. Wealthy American women, seeking to upgrade their social status, have come seeking British men with titles that they can marry.
Those men live in mortal fear of employment, so they are seeking wives who can support their extravagant lifestyles.
"The women need the men's title," Cunningham said. "The men need the women's money because they don't work."
But unlike the writers of "Downton Abbey," Maugham -- who's probably best known for "Of Human Bondage" and "The Razor's Edge" -- has given us an essentially satirical, comic look at the era and the scandalous behavior of its upper crust.
But Cunningham thinks it's a relevant play, a neglected classic of theater literature that deserves to come back into fashion. "People across the country pay attention to what happens as Asolo," she said. "I think with this wonderful, high-profile production people might take a look at his play and it could have a whole new life."
Details: March 13-April 14 (in rotation), at the Mertz Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Show times: Various. Tickets: $26-$74. Information: 941-351-8000, asolorep.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.