It began, somewhat inauspiciously, as a short story in a science-fiction magazine.
That was 59 years ago. Since then, “Flowers for Algernon” has been expanded into a novel, and adapted into a stage play, a Broadway musical (with music by Charles Strouse, who also wrote the music for “Annie”), a television play, a TV movie, a radio play and, most famously, into the 1968 big-screen movie “Charly.”
The non-musical stage version opens Thursday in the Bradenton Kiwanis Theater at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
“It’s almost a coming-of-age story about a man in his 30s,” said Colton Larsen, who has the lead role in the Manatee Players production.
That character is a developmentally disabled man who undergoes an experimental procedure that makes him very smart, very quickly. But shortly after the procedure, he realizes that the results will be short-lived, and he will soon return to his former state.
Along with the tragedy of the character losing his intelligence, and living for the first time with a perception of how his disability affects the way people treat him, “Flowers for Algernon” is also a love story, as the man and his teacher develop a friendship and a romance that deteriorates along with his intellectual abilities.
Even though the play and the story date back decades, director David Nields thinks the story holds up pretty well.
“We’ve got a really great cast, especially Colton,” he said.
Details: Nov. 30-Dec 17. Bradenton Kiwanis Theater at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave, W., Bradenton. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $25. 941-748-5875, manateeperformingartscenter.com.