Sir Henry and Lady Angkatell are hosting guests for the weekend. Relatives and friends will be staying over to schmooze, dine and gossip. Not surprisingly, most (if not all) of them have overlapping pasts. While he perpetually snarls and barks at his wife Gerda, Dr. Cristow is having an affair with Henrietta and still carries a torch for screen actress, Verona Craye, his ex-fiancee. When Cristow is shot dead, Detective Penny and Inspector Colquhoun have their pick of viable suspects.
More often than not, playwright and novelist Agatha Christie rises above the obvious choice of killing the least popular character. But then, she practically invented the dinner party/murder genre, so she’s probably entitled. Not surprisingly, there are numerous red herrings, stolen kisses, tawdry trysts…to keep the intrigue level high and the audience absorbed. While Christie’s dialogue in The Hollow may sometimes feel less genuine than rhetorical, her undeniable gift for creating vivid, fully realized characters is what sets her writing so high above the endlessly pedestrian copycats that have been pilfering her successful archetype for years. They may create a variety of types, but rarely move beyond cursory gestures or demeanor.
Lady Angkatell (played by Cindy Beall) is undoubtedly the most entertaining character in this narrative. She casually makes the most outrageous observations, but somehow her charisma redeems the frank remarks no one else could get away with. If she said your new blazer was perfectly ghastly, you’d laugh right along with her. And she’s so absent-minded, when she tells the Inspector she can’t remember where she was at the time of the murder, he can’t believe she’s dodgy. Then there’s Midge, who refuses to coast on the family fortune, even though it means the degrading lot of working in retail. Henrietta is a sculptor who uses her talent to disclose unspoken truths about those closest to her. Christie paints an elaborate mural. Every detail doesn’t advance the murder plot. Her characters are not mere pegs on a game board or caricatures to be ticked off a list.
Theatre Britain always offers the audience a multitude of pleasures, from the precise British dialects, accurate sets and lavish gowns, to the splendid revelations of English culture and class protocol. [Wouldn’t I love to see them do Pinter?] The Hollow is certainly up to their usually impressive standards and a delightful excursion into shadow and mayhem.
Theatre Britain presents The Hollow, playing September 2nd-25th, 2016. Cox Playhouse: 1517 H Avenue, Plano, Texas 75074. 972-490-4202. www.theatre-britain.com