BWW Interview: Kaitlyn Booth And Nova Lorraine of THE UNEXPECTED GUEST at Little Theatre Of Mechanicsburg
Add together a foggy night, dead body, clues that point in different directions, twists and turns, and what do you get? Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest. The Unexpected Guest opened in 1958 in the West End and was turned into a novel by Charles Osborne in 1999. Test out your detective skills at Little Theatre Mechanicsburg where The Unexpected Guest will take the stage April 26-May 12. I had the opportunity to take a sneak peak of the first act and to speak with two of the actors-Kaitlyn Booth, portraying Laura Warwick, and Nova Lorraine, playing Inspector Thomas.
The first thing the audience will notice upon entering the theatre is the amazing set. Every decoration and piece of furniture was clearly carefully selected to evoke the time period of the piece as well as the character of the homeowner, Richard Warwick. I was particularly impressed with the scene that could be seen through the glass of the French doors. The pre-show music was also delightful, and the top of show sound effects (including a fog horn and footsteps) served to help the audience know what was happening and heightened the suspense as they sat in almost complete darkness. Matt Stewart, in the role of Michael Starkwedder, grabs the audience's attention from his very first entrance, and keeps us intrigued and energized in subsequent scenes.
The show is well cast, and, as with many of Christie's plays, is truly an ensemble piece. Louise Fink Smith plays an imposing, practical, straightforward Mrs. Warwick who holds her own quite well in her act 1 interview with the inspector. One of the best scenes in the first act is the interview between Inspector Thomas (played by Nova Lorraine) and Miss Bennett (portrayed by Denise Carman). The actors react well to one another in this scene and have a wonderful level of emotion that feels genuine. Ted Williams takes on the role of Henry Angell, Mr. Warwick's valet. He does a great job of carefully treading the line between cooperating with the inspector and trying not to say anything negative about his deceased boss. As Julian Farrar, Conrad Gaither is excellent. His body language and way of speaking exude the slick confidence of a politician. Sergeant Cadwallader provides some comic relief, and Essa Dinges handles the part well-her interactions with Nova Lorraine's Inspector Thomas are a spot of fun in the midst of the tensions of the investigation. Jan Warwick is perhaps one of the most difficult roles in the show, and Ashur Carman is inspiring in the part. His movements, facial expressions, and overall demeanor fit the part perfectly.
Rounding out the cast are Kaitlyn Booth, who plays Laura Warwick, a woman who clearly has many secrets, emotions, and complicated relations. Booth does a nice job with the role and works quite well with Stewart. Finally, Inspector Thomas is portrayed by Nova Lorraine. Lorraine does a fantastic job of showing the Inspector's tough, no nonsense, practical side while trying to find the truth in this twisted tale. Continue reading to learn more about Booth and Lorraine, who took a few minutes to talk with us.
BWW: Tell us a little about yourself
Booth: I was born in Italy because my dad was in the air force, so I've lived all over. I'm a senior in high school and will be going to SUNY Purchase College in the fall to major in theatre and performance. This is my first show at Little Theatre Mechanicsburg, but this will be my 32nd show overall.
Lorraine: Where do I start? Once upon a time...I thought I was going to be a clinical psychologist. I was getting my graduate degree in clinical psych and realized I really wanted to reach people through my sense of fashion and creativity. I was in Connecticut where fashion was not really a thing. I finished up my masters, and then went to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). I decided I wanted to launch my own company, so I took marketing and business classes. All of this took me down this whole other path. I always loved the arts and being creative and performing. I performed with a dance group in college, and we competed in a dance show on MTV, which was so challenging, and we won that show. That led to auditioning for a professional dance company in Boston-I did that while I was in graduate school. I loved it, but it was tough. Now, I interact with and interview a lot of creatives for my publication.
BWW: If you had to choose one, what would be your favorite show you've performed in?
Booth: The Addams Family Musical. I played Wednesday Addams, and it was so much fun, and of course this is a great show, too.
BWW: Kaitlyn, you've done a lot of shows already, but what is one show you've always wanted to do that you haven't yet?
Booth: Peter and the Starcatcher
BWW: Nova, if you were to do another live show, what one would you want to do?
Lorraine: I love the 40s, 50s, and 60s, so this show is great because it's that time period. I love romances, so if they ever did Gone with the Wind on stage with a woman of color, I would totally want to play Scarlett O'Hara. Or, if they ever did a theatre production of Chanel's biography, it would be so cool to play that part even though I don't look like her. For me it's more about the genre and the feeling they bring of the story. I love shows that rely on a great story, great performer, and a strong vision from the director to bring them together.
BWW: Without giving away anything important, tell us a little about your character in The Unexpected Guest.
Booth: Laura is a very interesting character. It's hard to talk about her without giving things away. She's very proper and she's trying to keep things together but everything is falling apart around her. She's going through some tough stuff in this show.
Lorraine: I'm the detective, and she has no patience for nonsense. Everyone is guilty until proven innocent. She takes her job very seriously and wants to get results. But she also shows sympathy, so it's interesting playing the role, to figure out when and where to show that emotion. Her job is to get to the bottom of the mystery, and anyone could be a suspect. I think she trusts in the human character but uses her intuition to guide her. When she needs to step into the role of the hound to sniff out the truth, that trumps everything else. Solving the case is the number one priority. It's an interesting character. I love her serious side as well as her moments of stepping outside of the strict investigative role as well.
Why did you decide to audition for The Unexpected Guest?
Booth: I had just finished doing Newsies, and I didn't want to stop doing shows. My dad had done some shows at Little Theatre Mechanicsburg, and he had such great experiences, so I was interested in getting involved there. It has definitely been worth it.
Lorraine: When I started to get the performance bug again, thinking that I've always wanted to act, I was getting some offers to work on camera. I had heard that doing theatre was the best training for acting. I'm a bold person and just try not to think about it too much before taking a leap. I saw the post for this show and that they were looking for diverse characters. I thought I did horribly at the audition because I hadn't auditioned before. I remember going home and wondering why I had even decided to do it, then I got the email saying "Congratulations" and couldn't believe it.
BWW: Kaitlyn, in your 32 shows, have you done any Agatha Christie shows before?
Booth: No, this is my first crack at a Christie show.
BWW: What is your favorite thing about doing this show?
Booth: I get to test myself and push my boundaries and become stronger because I'm playing a character that isn't like myself.
Lorraine: The team is amazing, and they've been so patient with this being my first time. My goal was to bring value-I didn't want to be the weak link because I was new. I wanted to really learn the craft, so I put a lot of time into learning and studying and figuring out how to transform this male character into a female character in the 1950s. I'm so grateful I'm playing the inspector. If you're a mom, which I am, we're all inspectors-you ask the kids "who did it" and they always say "nobody". So playing an inspector in a murder mystery is a lot of fun.
BWW: Agatha Christie is a favorite for small theatres. What is it about her plays that keep audiences coming back for more?
Booth: I think she has a way of writing mysteries that is unique and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Sometimes you think you can guess it, but this one will throw you for a loop every time you think you have it figured out.
Lorraine: She is such an incredible writer. Reading the script over and over again, I realized how poetic it is, the lines are almost like lyrics in a song with rhyming and repetition of words. She also has an unbelievable ability to make you question the obvious and even become blind to the obvious. The detail she writes for every character is incredible. You may love or hate them but you will remember every one of them. She has inspired me as a writer for sure. There are so many twists and turns, and they all come together in the end.
BWW: Any final words for our readers?
Booth: You're in for a fun night. Bring your detective caps with you.
Lorraine: I would like the readers to know, if nothing else, to look at a play through a different lens. If you pay attention to the story, there is something in it that you can take away and apply to your own life. There's so much more that I see now from doing this show-I can empathize with and relate to and appreciate so much more what is brought to the stage. My advice is to think beyond entertainment. My hope is that we can inspire you, even if it's just to make you laugh or smile or scratch your head as you try to solve the mystery.