N.C. State University Theatre’s annual treasure, TheatreFest, this year celebrates mystery queen Agatha Christie, kicking off with a fun-filled production of The Hollow. A gathering for the weekend of family and friends of Sir Henry Angkatell K.C.B., and his Ladyship Lucy, at their home, “The Hollow,” goes a bit awry when someone is shot to death. The audience has seen a bit into the underlying travails of the various relationships among the group of nine characters, including an uninvited famous actress, who has recently moved into the neighborhood. Suspicions weave among each of the survivors as the action moves both darkly and hilariously to its conclusion.
Director Mia Self works with a first class cast, which includes several full-time professionals. Her set, costume, and hair designer, John C. McIlwee (who also plays the role of Sir Henry), places us in the Garden Room, poshly appointed and comfortable, of The Hollow, and clothes the characters in fine upper-class dress. Hairdos are typical 1950s elegant coifs.
Self presents us the opportunity to peek in on the private affairs of a family and even witness this extraordinary murder, without even knowing who committed it, and even more fun, to keep trying to guess “whodunnit,” separating clues from misleadings. Lighting designer Joshua Reaves and sound designer Rachel Klem enhance the show with atmospherics.
John McIlwee is a lordly and dignified Sir Henry Angkatell, the patriarch of the family. His aplomb is never disturbed by the goings-on around him, and he remains casually in charge at all times. Lady Angkatell is a complex woman who is a little off-beat and ephemeral, with flashes of a very dark side, as played by veteran TheatreFest actress JoAnne Dickinson, who joins the troupe each summer from Boston.
Marisa Markoch is very self-contained and self-confident as Henrietta Angkatell, a sculptor, distant cousin of the nuclear family, and thoroughly independent. John Christow, M.D., F.R.C.P., is played by Jonathan King, who shows an uncomfortably cold attitude toward the recipients of his medical skills, as he discusses his interest in the diseases he loves.
Katie Barrett is the principled Midge Harvey, who works in a dress shop rather than live on family wealth. Barrett makes her cheerfulness and concern for others the basis of the portrayal. And Danny Norris masterfully uses his eyes to assure his character, Gudgeon the butler, observes every detail of the affairs of the household.
Lynda Clark makes a breathtaking entrance as Veronica Craye, the glamorous new nextdoor neighbor. Clark’s passion and verve kick the role up several notches.
Gerda Christow, the loving, faithful, doctor’s wife, is played with simple sympathy and sturdiness by Alison Lawrence. And Gus Allen depicts the Angkatell son, Edward, a rather drab fellow, with little to interest him in life, except possibly his distant cousin Henrietta, whom he is expected to wed to produce a male heir for the larger estate.
Rounding out this fine cast are Blair Downs as the kitchen maid Doris, Justin Brent Johnson as Inspector Colquhoun, C.I.D., and Kyle Bullins as Detective Sergeant Penny. All of them do fine work.
The Hollow is cool summer entertainment for TheatreFest fans.
SECOND OPINION: June 1st Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/theatrefest-2016-a-salute-to-the-queen-of-mystery/Event?oid=5032368. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the June 3rd Triangle Review review by Dustin K. Britt, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/06/the-hollow-starts-theatrefest-2016-off-with-a-bang/.)
N.C. State University Theatre presents THE HOLLOW, as part of TheatreFest 2016: A Salute to the Queen of Mystery, at 7:30 p.m. June 9-11, 2 p.m. June 12, 7:30 p.m. June 16-18, 2 p.m. June 19, 7:30 p.m. June 23-25, and 2 p.m. June 26 in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall, 2241 E. Dunn Ave., Raleigh NC 27607, on the NCSU campus.
TICKETS: $18 ($6 NSCU students, $14 students and $16 $16 seniors 60+ and NSCU faculty and staff).
BOX OFFICE: 919-515-1100 or http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?organ_val=22089&event_val=HOLL.
SHOW/THEATREFEST 2016: https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/whats-on-stage/theatrefest-2016/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 17th, performance.
The Hollow (1946 detective novel): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hollow (Wikipedia).
The Hollow (1951 mystery/thriller): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/1385/hollow-the (Samuel French, Inc.) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hollow_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
Dame Agatha Christie (Engish novelist and playwright, 1890-1976): http://uk.agathachristie.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/3916 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agatha_Christie (Wikipedia).
Mia Self (Cary, NC director and assistant director of acting and directing at N.C. State University Theatre): https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/our-team/ (N.C. State University Theatre bio) and https://www.facebook.com/mia.self.31 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.