You know, I think I’m off to my best Ottawa Little Theatre Season start ever?
I mean, I’ll admit it, I have had a tendency to be a little truant on the OLT in the past…heck, I don’t think I caught a production until four shows in last year, and I know, for shame. But now I’m two for two, right off the bat! But then again, who can resist a centennial season? Quite frankly, folks, it’s hard to argue with an entire god-damned century of theatrical history (to say nothing of John Muggleton, who can be pretty persuasive). And so it was off to the Little Theatre that could once more, this time on premiere night no less, for a viewing of Agatha Christie’s THE HOLLOW, directed by Jim McNabb. Now, the venerable Miss Christie is kind of a staple at the OLT as I understand it, so I rather expected the gang to know what they were doing going in (this particular bit of Christie-ness was produced at the OLT back in 1960). But there was a flipside to that expectation as well…I mean, a community theatre production of Agatha Christie? Could be a bit by-the-numbers, if ya know what I mean.
The show itself ended up being a pretty satisfying blend of both expectations…while there wasn’t anything going on that would set your theatrical world on fire, this was a pleasing period whodunnit put on by a nice blend of seasoned performers and fresh faces, who made some pretty merry fun out of the dark subject matter. Or at least, you’d expect a murder mystery to be dark, but old Aggie seemed to be having lots of fun with this one, and the characters drive the onstage action even more than the mystery. Set in a picturesque country estate in England, the Angkatell clan (headed by Sir Henry and Lucy Angkatell) are hosting a slightly-too-busy for its own good weekend, hoping to secure a return to their ancestral home, or…something along those lines. It gets a bit soap-operatic, but a myriad of half-cousins and distant relations (meek Edward, worldly Henrietta, and proud but ignored Midge) collide with brash Doctor John Cristow and his doting wife Gerda, a pair of skulking servants, and even a visiting movie star. Scandal, vitriol, and of course murder ensue, and sharp-eyed Inspector Colquhoun and Detective-Sergeant Penny arrive to put the pieces together.
If you enjoy a good melodramatic mystery, this is a fine night out for ya, and there’re enough genuinely fun performances to make it worth your while. Danielle Silverman’s batty lady Lucy is a treat every time she’s on the stage, like one of those sitcom extras who gets applause every time they burst in a door. Heather Archibald is excellent as moody Henrietta, and has great scenes with Chris Cottrell as the self-obsessed Cristow (as well as with Mary Beth Pongrac, very good as Cristow’s shrinking violet wife). A special shoutout to Sam Hanson and Meghan Murphy as Gudgeon and Doris, the house servants…I do love me a good onstage servant, and they pull their scenes off nicely (I caught just a bit of Michael Caine in Hanson’s accent…very cool). And MAJOR scene-stealing props to the scenery-destroying entrances of Theresa Knowles as vain actress Veronica Craye, who brought the house down with sheer over-the-top exuberance. And Barry Daley’s sensible, suspecting Inspector was a perfectly timed breath of sane air in Act Two.
THE HOLLOW was a nice night…good laughs, the usual lovely costumes and set, and a pretty nifty twist at the end (Aggie is the undisputed Queen of mystery for a reason, after all). I’ll be looking forward to keeping up my OLT track record next month, when MR PIM PASSES BY continues the 100th season. Peace, love and soul, OLT,
The Visitor (and Winston)