BWW Reviews: Mysterious, Witty and All-Around Engaging - TRP's SPIDER'S WEB
I'm irritated, but not for any specific reason. It's been a long day, I'm hungry and quite frankly I'm just not so sure how this evening is going to pan out---you never know with theatre.
It's Friday evening and opening night of Theatre in the Round Player's production of SPIDER'S WEB, the house is practically full and looking around I immediately notice a particularly chatty gentleman making his way to the empty seat beside me. This is unfortunate because my coat has also decided to occupy the seat and in a game of human vs. coat, I know my coat will lose.
"Excuse me, I think that's my seat."
Bummer, it is.
"Oh, I'm sorry let me just move my coat."
It's the polite and moral thing to do.
The man takes his seat, settles in and immediately engages me with unwarranted conversation.
"Does it smell like hairspray in here?"
"Do you see a lot of theatre around town?"
"My daughters in a show..."
The lights dim to begin the show and I'm thrilled---finally, I can just sit and enjoy. An hour later it's the end of the first act and as the lights come back up, almost immediately the man starts buzzing in my ear about all his theories, but as I take a look around, I notice the whole room is buzzing with theories and speculations. Everyone has an idea and everyone wants to share. It's fascinating and very telling of the production.
Agatha Christie's SPIDER'S WEB is a regular whodunit mystery. It's smart, it's humorous and it always keeps you guessing. Instead of the expected holiday-focused production Theatre in the Round Players is offering up a little something different this season and I am more than happy to accept.
I love a good mystery and I love crime stories, this is both. So when the play started, I was quickly hooked. Watching it unfold slowly, I waited patiently for the death I knew was coming; it was just a matter of how and when it would happen. Though it took a little too long for my taste, when the door opened and the man fell dead, I was elated. This is the moment I was anxiously awaiting.
Agatha Christie is no stranger to crime but for those unfamiliar with this particular story, it goes a little something like this: Clarissa Hailsham-Brown (Laura Anderson) is the wife of foreign office diplomat, Henry Hailsham-Brown (Tom Sonnek), and loves telling stories (little lies) for fun. Who doesn't? But after spending the evening telling just a few too many stories, she discovers a dead body in her home. So, what's a girl supposed to tell the police (Richard Choate & Grant Hooyer) when discovering a dead body? More stories obviously, but this time she enlists the help of friends (Thom Pinault, Pierce Huxtable & Paul Schoenack) and quickly concocts an elaborate tale to explain the situation. What follows is a who, what, when, where and why? Boom, that's the plot. Sure there's a few more characters scattered throughout, but that's the basics. I can't give you the whole story because then you won't pay to see the show.
Lynn Musgrave assembles this quick-witted ensemble cast and ultimately has a show that she can be proud to share. Laura Anderson plays our leading lady and she proves immediately she's up for the challenge. She's funny, fast-talking and quite convincing in her portrayal of Clarissa. Another standout among the cast is Marcie Panian Berglund who plays Mildred Peake, the brass and very forward estate gardener with a few secrets of her own. Berglund renders quite the laughs and always manages to add a little energy to the scene---maybe it's because the woman knows how to project (which was lacking from some of the actors on stage.)
The rest of the cast does a solid job. Landing punch lines when necessary and keeping the general pace of the show among a few tripped lines and a dropped accent here and there---it's opening night, and it happens. No big deal. The show must go on and it did.
As the cast is taking their final bows, the man next to me has already begun his third and final round of verbal chatter but this time I'm a little more willing to participate---I was very happy to point out that in the end my theory was right and his was wrong. I won that round.
I grab my coat, say goodbye to my chatty companion and squeeze through the bundles of people milling around the lobby waiting for the opening night reception to begin and their chance to congratulate the cast. It's a cold walk but when I finally reach my Jeep and crank the ignition, I smile. This is only the second show I've seen with Theatre in the Round Players but after two solid performances, I can't wait to see what's next.
SPIDER'S WEB by Agatha Christie and directed by Lynn Musgrave plays now through December 15th.
Theatre in the Round Players, 245 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis, 612.333.3010, theatreintheround.org.
Photo Credit: Laura Anderson (Clarissa). Directed by Lynn Musgrave, costume design by Dwight Larsen. Photo by Ron Ravensborg.