THEATER REVIEW: Barn brings new life to antique by Christie

“Spider’s Web”/ Theater Barn

ONCE AGAIN IT’S AGATHA CHRISTIE time at the Theater Barn! You already expect the period Brits and the trips down plotty garden paths (with their multiple dead ends). And the houses. Ah yes, the houses.

At the Barn, the set for this large country house is a spacious room with imposing hunter-green walls. The walls are so richly painted that you could pet them, or perhaps wade in them. Those, plus French doors, secret and regular doors, a lovely Empire sofa, and a small desk are the main set-tools of the action.

Because this house is supposed to have been the home of an antiques dealer, one may have hoped for more impressive antiques, especially the desk that looms so large in the story. (People keep rifling in it searching for ?)

Cast members in the Theater Barn’s production of Agatha Christie’s “Spider’s Web” include (l to r) Phil Rice, Katelyn Widmer and Kate Berg. The play runs through July 23. For tickets, 518 794-8989. Photo contributed

Director Allen E. Phelps has his cast navigating the room smoothly; but, in their performing styles, these actors are curiously divided between traditional realism and—well, something else. In the traditional category is teenager Katelyn Widmer as adopted daughter, Pippa. (Her work is simple and effective.) And more: Andrew Pace is cast as Costello, the soon-to-be-corpse (which is disappointing, as the length of his appearance is too little of this interesting actor). John Trainor is an A-list performer stuck in a perhaps unnecessary (except for a plot-required bridge game) character called Hugo Birch. Trainor must stand for long swaths of time making his quiet reaction honest and true. The role is a waste of him.

Superb actors in solid roles are Phil Rice as Sir Rowland and Toby Wherry as Inspector Lord. Rice gives dimension to a wise and lovable character; and Wherry’s Inspector (with hair and tie askew) exudes the intense cogitation it takes to solve this murder. He thinks. His thinking is almost palpable and never indicated.

Kate Berg as Clarissa hovers somewhere between styles, convincing in anger and connivance and not convincing in bouts of little-girl eye-batting and hand-twisting. The surprise babyish tenor of Gianmarco Colucci’s voice in the character of Jeremy Warrender belies his leading-man looks, but maybe you’ll get used to it. Most disturbing were Brian Plouffe as the butler (whose acting choices can only be described as carefully choreographed “Addams Family”) and Brette Morningstar as Peake (whose style oddly conjures up a Ma-Kettle-in-Merry-Olde-England.)

The music in an Allen Phelps directed play is always interesting. This time it roves from a Haydn symphony to a dramatic roar of super-emotional movie music for the entr’acte. The latter seems like a slightly snarky but basically good-humored comment on the script. The plot-solution is coming, coming, coming!

Whenever murder is sanitized in a play or film or TV show, this witness is secretly grateful. Christie knows how to effectively sanitize while pushing the puzzle. Of course, in murder mysteries, it’s all about the puzzle. Go ahead, puzzle it. I didn’t give away the murderer.

Christie/Theater Barn tickets are available at 518-794-8989. The play runs through July 23.

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