Garland Civic Theatre
Director – Kyle McClaran
Stage Manager – Drusilla Blakey
Set Design – Kyle McClaran
Costume Design – Kyle McClaran
Light Design – Catherine Montgomery
Properties – Drusilla Blakey
Sound Design – Kyle McClaran
Evelyn Davis – Carla Le Merchant-Crale and
Evan Figg – Justin Fogg
Gregory Phillips – Amyas Crale and Jeff Rogers
Samantha Labrada – Angela Crale
Britney Spindle – Elsa Greer
Johnna Leigh – Miss Williams
Timothy Turner-Parrish – Meredith Blake and Tuanball
Marilyn Twyman – Phillipa Blake
The photos which feature Gregory Phillips and Evelyn Davis are by Celeste Rogers.
Reviewed Performance 8/23/2013
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Garland Civic Theatre opens its 2013-2014 season with Go Back for Murder by Agatha Christie. The play is adapted from Agatha Christie’s book Five Little Pigs and was first produced in 1960. The book features Hercule Poirot, who is also featured in twelve other Christie books, though he is replaced in the play by lawyer Justin Fogg.
In Go Back for Murder, Carla receives a letter from her mother who claims to be innocent from the murder she was imprisoned for sixteen years previously. Carla, believing her mother is innocent, visits with the people who were present on the day of the murder to gather information on what exactly had happened. The play explores recollection and how people can remember the same occurrence differently. The play is set in 1934 in British Colonial India with flashbacks to Ravenswood Manor in 1918, the day of the murder.
However, very little in the play, as presented by Garland Civic Theatre, hinted at this time period, with most of the scenes coming across more modern than the play called for.
The set was elaborate with four different playing areas: the office area which serves for both Phillipa and Justin, the terrace, the living room area and the staircase. Designed by Kyle McClaran, the set was very involved with lots of set dressing to make it appear elegant. The set was overcrowded, resulting in a blur between the different scenes and their location which made it impossible to see them as completely different places.
Drusilla Blakey was in charge of properties for this show. Her choices showed the wealth possessed by the characters in the play but became a distraction. There wasn’t a definitive theme to the properties and they felt out of place; they certainly didn’t come from British Colonial India or from the first half of the 20th century.
The costuming, as designed by Kyle McClaran, hinted at 1930’s clothing, though they were not quite there. When the play transitioned back to 1918, the costuming did not transition as well. This led to visual confusion within the play; I had to check the playbill to know what time period was happening on stage.
The lighting was simplistic in design, accomplishing its function of illuminating the actors and the set pieces as needed. Catherine Montgomery‘s choices effectively helped the audience focus their attention where it needed to be. The music at the beginning of the play was of an Indian vein and set a definite tone.
As the play transitioned, the music shifted to a modern, pop-style beat. This made it impossible to stay in the world of the play, pulling me out each time the music played. However, the choices made for some good comedy moments; especially when dramatic music came on as the actors came to a dramatic section within their dialogue.
Blocking for the scenes was very slow during the first act, in the sense that the actors stood still for long periods of time while speaking. This made it difficult to engage with the characters and see them in a realistic light. When the second act began, the movement picked up slightly, making things slightly more interesting.
Evelyn Davis played the part of Carla Le Merchant-Crale and also of Caroline Crale, her mother. Evelyn was able to stay in character as Carla, though when she transitioned to Caroline there was a blur between the two and Davis’ choices made them to be identical.
Evan Figg was decent in his portrayal of Justin Fogg, the lawyer who decides to help Carla when he hears her story, and because of an interest that he had in Caroline when he was younger. His monologues were well delivered and his character engaging, though at times his body movements were a little stiff.
Carla’s fiancé Jeff Rogers and Caroline’s husband Amyas Crale were both played by Gregory Phillips, who was very enjoyable to watch onstage. Phillips’ choices between the two characters were clear and definite, making him one of the more interesting actors.
Timothy Turner-Parrish played the parts of Tuanball and Meredith Blake, Amyas’s best friend. The two characters had distinct personalities and Turner-Parrish effectively played their different characteristics. This made Turner-Parrish another enjoyable actor to watch throughout the play.
Marilyn Twyman was good in her portrayal of Phillipa Blake, making clear choices in the character’s behavior, though at certain times it was forced, making it hard to see Blake as a real character in the play.
Britney Spindle portrayed the part of Elsa Greer. Spindle did well playing the mistress, though there was no realistic action in between her character’s moods. Jumping immediately from a good mood to loud and angry, she continued to be angry throughout her performance without ever having allowed time for a build.
There was a lot of potential to GCT’s Go Back for Murder. Many of the actors were talented in their roles, though with many directing and design choices being out of context for a play of this style, it fell short in being a quality work of theatre.
GO BACK FOR MURDER
GRANVILLE ARTS CENTER
300 North 5th Street, Garland, TX
Performances run through September 14th
Shows run Fridays - Saturdays at 8:00 pm; and Saturday matinee at 2:30 pm. Additional performance on Thursday, August 29th at 7:30 pm.
Ticket prices are $22.00. Discounted tickets are available for groups of ten or more.
For info & tix go to http://www.garlandcivictheatre.org/ or call their box office at 972-205-2790.