Hope area residents are invited to the return of “The Well House” to the WILLow LeaVes stage for 7 p.m. performances Thursday and Friday.

A love story with Hope roots, “The Well House” is based on the book of the same title written by Mark Van Voorhis and Ed Kugler.

Hope resident David Webster adapted the story for the stage after he experienced what he has described as a “guided nudge” to do so and shared his dedicated, hard work with audiences last year when the play debuted at WILLow LeaVes in November 2018.

The story chronicles an unlikely friendship that blossoms between Hope resident Clayton Riggs and Chicago native Maggie O’Reilly in 1966 when the two meet at the iconic Well House on the campus of Indiana University Bloomington.

Holding true to the original prose, the play, which returns with its original cast, unfolds through a series of one dozen letters over more than 90 minutes and it is clear that neither Riggs nor O’Reilly have been entirely forthcoming about their feelings for one another.

When Riggs joins the U.S. Marines he is sent to war in Vietnam. And communication between the two ends when it is assumed that Riggs is missing in action. O’Reilly holds out hope Riggs is OK wherever he is and pines for him for nearly three decades.

Columbus resident Daniel Wiehe says having the opportunity to play the role of Moto, Rigg’s commanding officer, has been a joy and describes it as the best role he’s ever had.

He says there is a lot of emotion felt and exhibited by Moto, including anger and unresolved trauma. Today, it would be evident that Moto suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he says.

If there is one thing Wiehe has learned from portraying Moto, it is a shift in his own perception.

“It helps me to understand how much our veterans sacrifice when they go to war and come back,” Wiehe says. “It has given me a fresh perspective about that, which is not something I’ve ever really thought about.”

Hope resident Pete Law has returned to direct this year’s performance and also reprises his role as Riggs and describes the experience as like stepping back into a familiar role. Much of Rigg’s role is portrayed through voiceovers that are steeped in emotion, Law says, and one challenge has certainly been getting back into that mindset and relying solely on his voice as a form of expression.

However, directing this time around has been easy given that the changes have been relatively minute and all the same players are on board, he says.

“We’ve had everything right together,” Law says. “It is weird to think that a year has passed, but it’s like we have just put it back up on stage.”

If there is one thing Law looks forward to, it is the feedback from those who come to see the performance. The added bonus is, it is original work, he says.

“So many community theatres don’t do original work,” he says. “With this, it has been nice to work with someone and if we have to change something we can do so without a big to-do and having to pay exorbitant amounts of money to do so.”

Webster says this year’s performance will offer audiences some new additions to the original work, including a performance by singer/songwriter and Hope resident Avery Tallent.

Once again, Sally Webster will also perform between scene and act changes, Webster says.

“It almost makes it like a movie,” he says. “I refer to Sally’s songs as her music library and they fit perfectly with the manuscript.”

Webster says one thing that drew him to adapt the book to the stage was having family members who served in the United States Armed Forces, including an his father, who served in WWII, and an uncle who served in Vietnam.

And that is the commonality of knowing someone who has served that most, if not all, of us share, he says.

“It is a play that is a lot about hope,” Webster says. “And who doesn’t need hope? We all need hope.”