As one of the early arrivals to the Village Theater complex last night, I watched as the many residents of the Greenspring retirement community entered the venue for the first of four performances of The Unexpected Guest. I thought how fortunate we are that this retirement community not only nurtures live theater, but also supports their fellow residents who perform on the stage or as part of the production team behind the scenes. With such a positive uplifting environment rivaling that of many local theatre companies, how could this performance be anything else but a superb education on classic detective work?
Agatha Christie’s 1958 play is a marvelous ‘whodunit’ with more twists and turns than the old Interstate 95/495 mixing bowl interchange – not far from the theater’s location in Springfield, VA. Character development and plot twists abound in this well-written play by the “Queen of Crime,” as she was affectionately known. Christie keeps us guessing right until the very end. If you follow the clues provided throughout the play, your may be given recognition in the ‘Lt. Columbo Private Eye Club.’
As I settled down within Greenspring’s comfortable and modern social hall, I was struck by the wide proscenium stage providing ample room for the furniture scattered about the set. Their lighting design was excellent as was the exeptional sound system. The Greenspring Players’ talented cast members all acquit themselves splendidly with the 1950’s South Wales English setting. Although all the players performed well, I want to call special attention to a number of them:
The play revolves around the murder of a Richard Warwick, whom we find apparently dead (a very convincing Al Trakowski) when the lights come up center stage at the outset. The audience certainly appreciated his live appearance during the curtain call when he took his bows with the rest of the cast.
Sue Franke (playing Warwick’s unhappy wife Laura) convincingly portrayed the complexities of a character caught between love and a failed marriage, while willing to sacrifice herself all too easily.
John Carle (Jan Warwick) made me believe his simple-minded portrayal had a crazy evil streak which became more menacing as the play progressed. Caroline Boubin (Mrs. Warwick) had the grand-dame game down cold. Jane Ford’s Miss Bennett was a classic English put-upon help, with that fine balance of insouciance and disdain. I felt appropriately slimy after witnessing Howard Wachspress’ butler (Henry Angell) go downhill. They were all perfect suspects (maybe).
Special kudos to Stage Manager Elke Martin for her fine work, and to Director Adron Krekeler, whose excellent direction produced many fine performances and kept me on the edge of my seat.
If you want to see a classic ‘whodunit,’ rush right out to Greenspring and grab a ticket or two. I know that the box office would appreciate more ‘Unusual Suspects’ in the audience.
Running Time: Two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
The remaining performances of Greenspring Players’ The Unsuspected Guest are Friday, November 13th at 7:00 PM, and Saturday, November 14th at 2:00 PM at the Greenspring Retirement Community’s Village Theater – 7410 Spring Village Drive, in Springfield, VA. For reservations, contact the public affairs office at (703) 923-4690. Tickets are $5.00.