Onstage, the year is 1940; the costumes make that “very recognizable,” said Bob Stevenson, department head of communication and theatre arts at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. World War II has just begun. The setting is tropical Mexico.

Yet uncertainty resonates throughout the new production being staged by Theatre @ UAFS.

“There is uncertainty about tomorrow,” Stevenson said of the play.

Theatre students at UAFS will perform a rendition of Tennessee Williams’ “Night of the Iguana” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19-21 and 23-24 in the school’s Breedlove Auditorium, 5120 Grand Ave. in Fort Smith.

A captured and tethered iguana feels “trapped” and strives for the grace it experienced when it was birthed, Stevenson said. If not untied, it will be eaten tomorrow, and opportunity for escape will be forever lost.

The play is about an “excommunicated preacher who finds God and finds himself,” Stevenson said. The Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon (Alex Sanders) visits the American-owned Costa Verde Hotel, whose owner, Maxine Faulk (Molly Tennison), is recently widowed, Stevenson said. His “ex-patriot status is wearing.” He feels sick and trapped, Stevenson said. “Leading the tour is going badly” for him.

Although surrounded by people, the preacher feels “really alone,” Stevenson said. People are everywhere in the Mexican resort, their days are full of minutiae, but at the end of the day, Stevenson said the man felt like he had nothing. “College students, especially,” should understand, Stevenson said. “There have been a lot of discussions about it.”

Enter Hannah Jelkes (Paige Lokey) and her grandfather, Nonno (Colten Soddons). The pair tour, selling paintings and poetry for their livelihood, while living the vagabond life, Stevenson said. Hannah and Shannon share a kindred spirit and work through difficult times together, Stevenson said. “Is Hannah going to be able to help Shannon enough?”

Stevenson said he had seen “Iguana” performed about 25 years ago and thought it was a “great play for theatre.” It is “very well constructed,” he said. Stevenson teaches the majority of acting and directing classes for the theatre department.

A “great author” with “good ideas (and) imagery” was how Sanders, a senior theatre major, described Williams and “Iguana.” As an actor, as a designer and as a director, “Iguana” was all-around great, he said.

The play is so immersed in the world, cast members “have to go deep to make it work,” Stevenson said. Otherwise, the play “will fall apart.” The cast truly have to be “craftsmen of (their) field” in order to make the “theatre magic work,” Stevenson said.

“Iguana” is a play that inspires “serious actors (to) want to work,“ Stevenson said. It will be a “real growth experience” for the primarily freshmen and sophomore cast, he said. Because the cast in “Iguana” is much larger than the theatre’s usual productions and about 35 percent of the class graduated last semester, the program is able to practice what they “preach” — affording students the opportunity to perform “from day one,” he said

As an actor, you want (plays) that you can work, Sanders said. The constant and continuous activity and high energy tied to “Iguana” cause the play to be “alive and fun,” Sanders said. They were also the elements that caused Sanders to deem the play “probably (his) most favorite.” Sanders will graduate in December and has been cast in “numerous productions” over the past four years, he said.

“Always fun and lively” is how Sanders described his co-star, Tennison. The two have performed together in “a few shows,” Sanders said. Tennison is also a senior theatre major. Both Sanders and Tennison want to act professionally after college.

Ideally, the university’s performances are taken on tour each year, Stevenson said. Because the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, which Stevenson called the “super bowl of college students,” was hosted in Fort Smith the last two years, he said they participated but did not have to travel to do so. Taking a show on the road allows students to experience setup before the performance and takedown afterward

About 1,200 different schools participate, and “we’re happy to be one of them,” Stevenson said. Some of the “different schools bring their shows,” he said. So, at the festival, students have the opportunity to watch “all these great shows,” Stevenson said. A professional is invited to watch the plays, and then discussions follow with the professional, the director and the designers. Workshops and classes fill the remainder of the festival, Stevenson said.

Sanders said he has enjoyed watching the theatre program change and grow, knowing “he had a hand in it.” He also enjoys helping “new people” and helping “them improve.”

The play is part of the university’s Season of Entertainment 37 lineup. Admission is $6 per person or by season ticket. Contact the box office at (479) 788-7300 or visit uafs.universitytickets.com for reservations. The show is rated for ages 13 and older due to mature themes, according to a UAFS news release about the production.