THE HOLLOWby Agatha Christie
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Directors - Lauren & Jason Morgan
Costume/Scenic Designer - Lauren Morgan
Set Designer - Jason Morgan
Stage Manager - Stefanie Glenn
Lighting Designer - Bryan Douglas
Sound/Props Designer - Jennifer Stewart
Props Artisan - Jean Jeske
Master Carpenter - Caleb Pieterse
Henrietta Angkatell - Hannah Cooper
Sir Henry Angkatell - Kim Titus
Lady Angkatell - Laura Jones
Midge Harvey - Heidi Hood
Gudgeon - Jason Morgan
Edward Angkatell - Blake Hametner
Doris - Jessica Peterson
Gerda Cristow - Kady Sidlauskas
John Cristow - Adam Kullman
Veronica Craye - Kathleen Smith
Inspector Colquhoun - D. Aiden Wright
Detective Sergeant Penny - Terry Yates
Reviewed Performance: 10/13/2018
Reviewed by Rebecca Roberts, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
A weekend country home getaway in 1940’s England goes terribly awry when a member of the party is murdered in cold blood – leaving 9 suspects and countless potential motives. While Act 1 is spent setting the scene and introducing the suspects, Act 2 follows the local investigator as he examines the scene of the crime and the house full of suspects. Complete with murder, romance, love affairs, and more, Agatha Christie can’t help but compose a piece that guarantees every audience will spend the last five minutes of the play gasping and clenching the arm of their companion in shock.
Lauren and Jason Morgan wore many hats in the assembly of this production, both on and off stage. They each had a hand in the direction of the play, which was expertly blocked and cast. In a murder mystery, it is so important to find that balance between exposing the audience to enough information that they can understand the outcome, without actually being able to guess what it could be. Lauren and Jason’s direction led to small nuances in actor’s movements and conversations. And each moment was perfectly calculated in maintaining certain character’s concealment of guilt, as well as others’ momentary lapses of perceived innocence.
While there wasn’t necessarily a single lead character, Hannah Cooper’s portrayal of Henrietta Angkatell opened and closed the play beautifully. Cooper played the role of mistress and sculptor with a confident sincerity, and her accent and tone were strong and unwavering. Sir Henry and Lady Angkatell, played by Laura Jones and Kim Titus respectively, complemented each other brilliantly as the contented man and eccentric woman of the house. Jones simply stole the show with her comedic facial expressions and straight-faced delivery of hilariously peculiar dialogue. The seemingly never-ending paragraphs of nonsense might have been tedious had they not been delivered with such skillful timing and intonation.
Surrounded by sandal and intrigue, John Cristow (Adam Kullman) arrives with his wife Gerda (Kady Sidlauskas) at the Angkatell’s country estate. Kullman nicely embodied the role of hard-to-like playboy doctor, while Sidlauskas countered his performance with her meek but loyal wifely persistence. Meanwhile, Heidi Hood played sweet and demure Midge Harvey, plagued by the desire to prove her independence and maturity to her richer relatives, the Angkatells. Hood’s authenticity shone through her performance. And Midge’s relationship with kind and endearing Edward Angkatell, as played by Blake Hametner, brought a much needed softness to the story.
D. Aiden Wright led Act 2 as Inspector Colquhoun, joined by sidekick Terry Yates as Detective Sergeant Penny. While Wright’s performance wasn’t perfect, with a few flubs here and there, he did well in his role of audience surrogate as he tried to piece together the various aspects of the murder that the audience both witnessed and learned about shortly thereafter. Yates, on the other hand, brought quite a bit of extra personality into his role and seemed to be straight out of a Dickensian mystery – accent, appearance, and all.
Some other notable featured performances came from the downstairs staff – Gudgeon (Jason Morgan) as a discontented Mr. Carson-type butler, and Doris (Jessica Peterson) as the bubbly and impertinent housemaid. Morgan tickled the audience with every sigh and eyeroll and Peterson’s charming scene change interlude was very enjoyable. On the other end of the social sphere was sophisticated movie star Veronica Crane, played by Kathleen Smith who dominated each of her scenes and maintained a captivating stage presence.
Lauren and Jason Morgan’s set and scenic elements were very smartly laid out, creating the perfect number of nooks and crannies, and entrances and exits, needed to keep the action onstage interesting. Although each area of the stage was designed and used well, there were some issues in the construction of it. A few walls leaned and some fabric wallpaper had very visible staples holding it together. However, the messiness of the walls was well masked by the extensive and well thought out set dressing. The shelves and tables and furniture looked exactly as though they came from an actual 20th century country home. At one point, there was even a crackling fire, giving a sense of true cozy country living.
Props designer, Jennifer Stewart, and props artisan, Jean Jeske, scattered books, magazines, and even small pieces of art (presumably designed by the character of Henrietta) across the stage, which were clearly chosen to represent the homeowners’ personality and taste. The guns were also very well designed and constructed to look incredibly realistic. I would have only loved to see some kind of blood used in this production, especially because of all the dialogue following the murder about the overwhelming amount of the victim’s blood.
The simple yet elegant lighting design by Bryan Douglas suited the play very well. The interior practical lighting elements helped light the stage realistically. And while there could have been a bit more variety in exterior lighting to signify the passage of time, the lighting during the final stormy scene generated the perfect mood, as the murderer was finally revealed.
The costume design, by Lauren Morgan, was truly exquisite. Each character’s costumes created a clear representation of their identity and importance in the story. Color schemes, fabrics, and silhouettes were carefully chosen for each character. I found myself slightly distracted by the number of character shoes onstage and the fit of some of Henrietta’s costumes. But Veronica Craye’s elegant movie star status was unmistakable anytime she walked onstage in her beautiful dresses and furs. Additionally, the hair and makeup of every character was very well done; again, lending itself to the understanding of each character’s unique persona.
Agatha Christie fans, old and new, will love this production of “The Hollow.” And no one will be able to keep from mumbling “I knew it!” under their breath at curtain call (even though we all know you didn’t). Support local theatre and see if you can solve a murder at Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s presentation of “The Hollow.”
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy Street
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Plays through October 28th.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
Tickets range from $19-20 at evening performances and $17 at matinee performances.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to http://stolenshakespeareguild.org or call Theatre Mania at 1-866-811-4111.