Mike Slease (left) as Inspector Colquhoun takes a statement from Gerda Cristow, played by Leischen Moore (seated) as Syra Beth Puett as Lady Angkatell (center) and Emilie Rommel as Midge Harvey look on in the Lakewood Playhouse production of Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow.” (Photo by Dean Lapin)
Whodunit? The Lakewood Playhouse, of course!
The theatre’s season opener, “The Hollow,” is Agatha Christie’s romp around the English countryside with mirth, mayhem and murder.
This is one of Christie’s later-year’s offerings. Her characters, for the most part, are more developed than some of her earlier work, even though her murderer remains ever elusive until the very end. With this offering, the granddame of murder has liberally sprinkled a multitude of guffaws.
Erin Chanfrau’s simplistic set, which adequately represents the English manor home in the central staged production, offers the surrounding audience complete unobstructed views of the action; this is enhanced by Ali Criss’ lighting design and Frances Rankos’ costumes.
John Munn, the “I’ll never do another Christie” director, has amassed a strong cast to unfold the tale. Although his actors seem to change positions unnecessarily on stage at times, it must be in order to keep them open to all the on-lookers. The only bothersome action is the all too frequent visits the cast makes to the bar – every scene, morning, noon and ever after, the drinks flow though almost none are downed completely. Everyone sips some of the potent potables, except for the butler who undoubtedly has his in the pantry.
Speaking of the butler, Michael Dresdner is the most proper Gudgeon; he plays him with aplomb. In keeping the manor tidy, he is ably assisted by Brie Yost as Doris the maid.
Elliot Weiner plays Sir Henry Angkatell, the typical lord of the manor, to perfection. Marie Kelly makes a worthy debut at Lakewood as Henrietta Angkatell, the object of a perhaps one-too-many’s affections.
The weekend guests at the manor include a charming Emilie Rommel as Midge Harvey and Michael J. Griswold as an eager Edward Angkatell, the relative who inherited the grand manor overlooking the Hollow. Both turn in quality performances.
Christopher Gilbert as Dr. John Cristow and Leischen Moore as his wife Gerda complete the expected guest list. Gilbert is very effective as the medico who is in it for the money why berating his wife at every turn. Moore shines as the downtrodden, long-suffering wife.
Among the unexpected guests is Annie Coleman as movie star Veronica Craye, come home from Hollywood to try to grab the man she left behind. Coleman slithers elegantly through the lives of those in the English country garden.
Of course, after the inevitable murder, the police arrive in the form of Mike Slease as Inspector Colquhoun and Justin Carleton as Sergeant Penny. Slease is so capable as the inspector and Carleton is as bright as a new Penny as his foil.
Saving the best for last, Syra Beth Puett is Lady Lucy Angkatell. Puett turns in some of her best work in a long career of strong performances as the proper, slightly scattered-brained mistress of the manor. It is she who delivers most of the very humorous one-liners, but it’s Puett’s na?Øve delivery which makes them oh, so very funny.
Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow” continues at The Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, next to the Pierce Transit Depot, through September 30 each Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.; there is also a Pay-What-You-Can performance scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, September 13 and an Actor’s Benefit matinee on Saturday, September 29 at 2 p.m.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Go to The Lakewood Playhouse, see Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow” and laugh yourself to murder!
Submitted by Lynn Geyer