By Margaret Morris
A thoroughly enjoyable rendition of Agatha Christie’s play, “The Hollow,” ran for two weekends in Anathan Theater at Franciscan University of Steubenville. The production was directed by Monica Anderson, professor of Fine Arts and starred numerous Franciscan students, both on stage and behind the scenes. Even though the play had already run nightly from November 8-11 the theater was full to capacity again on Thursday, November 15, for the opening night of the second weekend.
A beautiful stage and gentle swing music set the tone. The set was put together perfectly, from the immaculately painted walls, to the beautiful drapes, to the French doors leading back into a very convincing garden.
When the curtains went up, it was immediately apparent that, while this may be a college production, the hearts and souls of the cast members were totally in their work. Dialogue flew back and forth, all in slightly varying English accents, and the audience was swept into the story with very little apparent effort.
The story is set in an English home, the Hollow, where the owners have invited their various cousins and second cousins, as well as a couple whom they are friends with, to stay for the weekend. Within the first few moments of the play, it is apparent that, in addition to being related by blood, there is also a tangled web of relationships blanketing the group. While the audience still is attempting to figure out who is related, either by blood or desire, to whom, a murder is committed and the mystery begins.
An interesting fact concerning this specific production is that all the weapons on stage were, in fact, real. Before every performance, campus security has to be notified, as a blank is fired during the play when the murder is committed.
As the first Act ended, there was laughter and a full round of applause. After the intermission, the remainder of the play truly took the audience on a “scenic route” through the potential murderers. The multiple suspects each had their turn being the focus before another, suddenly more plausible option, came up. All the while, the mood was kept light, mainly by the highly entertaining performance of Lady Angkatell, played by Sarah Vink, and the lively banter between the inspector and his sergeant, played by John Akre and Gabriel Velazques, respectively.
The house manager, Jennifer Riley, said that that it was the first mystery to be done on campus in almost 10 years.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” Riley said. “The fellowship here is incredible, and we are here doing what we love.”
In classic Christie fashion, the true murderer is, of course, revealed in the end. Love finds an unexpected couple, and justice is fulfilled. The atmosphere created when the lights went dim was truly convincing, and swept away the audience, so that when the cast came out for the closing bow, it was almost a surprise.
“They’re doing a great job, and the audience seems to be having fun,” said Anderson.
The “oohs,” “ahs,” and applause of the audience seemed a fairly good indicator of their thorough enjoyment of the production. John Paul Dougherty, who had seen the play in its first week, and was back a second time, verbalized the general emotion very well when he said, “It was masterfully performed.”