Hug High School Theater2880 Sutro St.
Reno, NV 89512
Murder is the name of the game in Reno Little Theater’s latest production of an Agatha Christie classic. The Hollow contains all of the ingredients that make Christie’s mysteries so satisfying: a mix of eccentric characters, a remote location, lots of secrets, sexual intrigue, a sudden murder and a quirky inspector who shows up to solve the crime.
A stage adaptation of the novel, The Hollow is set in an aristocratic English country home. The guests, most of whom are distant cousins of one sort or another, have gathered here for a refreshing weekend away from the city. The assortment includes Lady Lucy Angkatell (Barbara Biondo), the peculiar and absent-minded lady of the house; John Cristow (Jorge Hoyos), the successful but dissatisfied doctor; Gerda (Heather Hansen), his nervous, fidgety wife; Midge Harvey (Elizabeth Weiss), the poor relative who supports herself by working in a dress shop; Veronica Craye (Heather Wirtz), the flamboyant movie actress who has just moved in down the road; and Gudgeon (Paul Malikowski) and Doris (Megan Sherrell), the butler and maid who listen in on the affairs of their masters.
Of course, the weekend has only begun when a murder occurs. In the book, the famous Hercule Poirot must solve the puzzle. In this play adaptation, however, Poirot has been replaced with Inspector Colquhoun (Michael Peters), a gruff, Scottish detective.
Inspector Colquhoun appropriately questions everyone about their motives for murder. “You can be sure of no one in this world,” one of the characters aptly remarks, and during the course of the play each character comes under the veil of suspicion.
The attractive set depicts the drawing room of an English estate with a hanging chandelier, fireplace and antique furniture. This is, after all, a proper English household in which guests dress for dinner in evening attire, and there are complicated rules governing the handling and placement of dinnerware.
Hoyos, in the role of Cristow, brings an intriguing intensity to his character. Even when Hoyos is discussing infidelity, he does it with such sincerity that one cannot help but be sympathetic to his predicament. Peters as Inspector Colquhoun creates an interesting alternative to the Poirot character. He is probing, thoughtful, awkward, but extremely likeable, too.
This is definitely a talky play. The production runs three hours and is filled with lengthy explanations for intricate relationships and complicated motivations that go far back into the past. Sometimes it feels that too much is said. There were times when a long conversation or a monologue could have been replaced with a few short words or a simple look between characters.
There are a few sound cues that are distracting, too. At the beginning of the show, I thought the theater had some kind of bird infestation, until I realized that it was a sound effect providing a continuous undertone of twittering.
Director David Zybert has updated this production to modern times, and the change is hardly noticeable with the exception of a couple of anachronisms. The action on stage is lively, with characters constantly coming and going. The play also offers several laughs, many of which revolve around Lady Lucy’s absentmindedness. RLT has cooked up a recipe for a murder that is sure to satisfy mystery-lovers.