BWW Review: TOWARDS ZERO at Oyster Mill Playhouse
Towards Zero is based on the 1944 Agatha Christie novel by the same name. The play by Agatha Christie and Gerald Verner was first published in 1956 and premiered in the West End at the St. James's Theatre. In typical Christie fashion, Towards Zero employs humor, red herrings, and many twists and turns to keep the audience guessing. See if you can solve the crime by joining the cast and crew of Towards Zero directed by Aliza Bardfield at Oyster Mill Playhouse January 17-February 2.
The production crew for Towards Zero has done a fantastic job. The set is incredibly detailed, including a very realistic landscape painting behind the windows and exits that actually look like they lead into another part of the house rather than simply leading back stage. The costumes are well-designed, specifically suited to each character in style and color. One of my favorite aspects of the technical side of this production was the music played during scene changes. It heightened the anticipation and kept the audience engaged as we waited to see what was going to happen next.
While this particular show is not my favorite Agatha Christie tale, the cast and crew at Oyster Mill bring an energy to the show that makes it impossible not to become invested in the storyline as the audience tries to figure out the mystery. Paul Neel and Samantha Speraw start the show with great energy with their first entrance as Thomas Royde and Kay Strange-their first moments on stage are completely silent, but their facial expressions and intentional movements capture the audience's attention right away. This energy was multiplied as the other actors took the stage, building wonderfully right up through the end of the performance.
My only complaint was that a few of the actors could have projected better-I found that I missed some lines simply because they were not delivered with enough volume. There were also times when English accents were not consistent, but, overall, they did a nice job with the accent-in a show with so much dialogue, it isn't an easy task to keep an accent going strong. What really brought this production to life were the interactions between the characters. It is truly an ensemble show, so the ways in which the characters interact is particularly important to driving the storyline and keeping the audience engaged.
KeriAn Cross is delightful in the role of Lady Tressilian. Her straightforward manner, withering looks, and tone of voice ensure that the audience has no question as to her true feelings about the other characters. Cross has terrific stage presence, which serves her well in this role. Stephen F.J. Martin's Mathew Treves is almost the opposite of Cross's Lady Tressilian. He approaches the role with a quiet dignity. He gives the audience the sense that Treves is always there in the background, observing those around him and drawing logical conclusions based on his observations. He particularly shines in the final scenes of the show when the mystery finally begins to unravel.
Graham Woods and Andy Isaacs take on the roles of Inspector Leach and PC Benson. Woods plays Leach with enthusiasm, imparting to the audience the idea that he is working hard to impress Superintendent Battle. Isaacs does a great job at staying in character, even though his character has little to say. Superintendent Battle is portrayed by Scott Long. In Long's hands, Battle is a no nonsense, down to earth detective. His interrogations with the other characters are fun to watch, as he seems to try to put them at ease before pouncing on them with various theories and pieces of evidence.
Some of my favorite scenes highlighted the interactions between the characters of Mary Aldin and Ted Latimer, played by Allison States and Brandon Long. States portrays Mary Aldin as a devoted but careworn secretary to Lady Tressilian. Long is energetic and playful as Ted Latimer, an old friend of Kay's. The scenes that States and Long share together demonstrate a bond between the two characters born out of their position as outsiders among the group assembled at Gull's Point. They are touching and authentic scenes that are a delight to watch.
Long's Latimer is also a great match for Samantha Speraw's Kay Strange. Kay is bold and brash, and quite at odds with most of the other personalities at Gull's Point. Speraw and Long have terrific chemistry on stage. Rounding out this ensemble cast are the other pieces of the crazy relationship tangle in this play-Thomas Royde played by Paul Neel, Audrey Strange portrayed by Caitlyn Davis, and Neville Strange played by Jeremy Joynt.
Neel and Joynt have some of the best facial expressions in the show. Neel infuses Thomas Royde with an air of exasperation, pessimism, and droll humor. Davis has one of the more difficult roles, as Audrey Strange is described several times as colorless and emotionless. She does a marvelous job at portraying that element of Audrey Strange. Davis particularly shines in the final scenes of the performance. Joynt is excellent in the role of Neville Strange. He uses his facial expressions and posture to show us Neville's wide range of emotions. Joynt's interactions with the other characters on stage draws the audience into the story.
This production of Towards Zero at Oyster Mill Playhouse is fascinating to watch as the mystery unfolds. The cast and crew have put together an enticing production that keeps the audience guessing right until the very end. Visit www.oystermill.com to get your tickets for this thrilling mystery at Oyster Mill Playhouse.