Agatha Christie’s suspense story, Spider’s Web, opened this weekend at the Laurel Mill Playhouse located on Main Street in historic Laurel, Maryland. This show is produced by Maureen Rogers and directed by Daniel Johnston.
The play starts off in a typical British upper-middle-class house of a diplomat, Henry Hailsham-Brown (Patrick Pase), his second wife, Clarissa (Sarah Robinson) and young daughter Pippa (Shayna Bloom) from a previous marriage. We are quickly introduced to the wife, Clarissa, and her former guardian, Dame Rowland Delahaye (Sam David). They are joined by their fellow bridge players Jeremy Warrender (Rocky Nunzio) and Hugo Birch (Brock Brown). It seems like a typical day, chit chat and drinks. Adding quickly to this mix are the gardener, Mildred Peake (Maia Krapcho), the daughter, Pippa, and, of course, being British, the butler, Elgin (Nik Henle). The scene is turned upside down with the entrance of Oliver Costello (Terri Laurino), a local drug kingpin and now husband to Henry Hailsham-Brown’s former wife and Pippa’s drug-addicted mother. Of course, it would not be a British mystery if there were not an Inspector (Steve Bruun) and a Constable (Jen Sizer).
If I exposed more about the play, I would have to keep warning of spoiler alerts. This is Dame Agatha, and there are so many twists in the plot and hidden clues that all I can do is tell you to listen carefully and watch everything if you want to guess the ending correctly. It would ruin your fun if I gave more details except to say that this is very typical of a British mystery. This play also has enough comic relief to keep it a great romp in the English countryside.
Robinson as the lady of the house, Clarissa, expertly portrays the strong woman that Christie is noted for bringing to life. She runs her house, supports her husband’s career, raises his daughter as if she were her own and handles all the chaos that goes along with murder (not a spoiler alert). Robinson is believable as she uses her feminine wiles to charm her male companions, her husband and even the police.
David, as Delahaye, also captures this type of British noblewoman as she supports her former ward through all this mayhem. The scene in Act II where the two conspire to hide the facts reveals their close relationship and their backbones.
Bruun makes a memorable Inspector Lord. Sizer is more than adequate as Constable Jones. When they are together, there is great chemistry, and no doubt, these two lawmen have worked together for years.
Krapcho is the comic relief, and she is marvelous at carrying off this loud and sometimes coarse woman. She brings great energy to the role.
Nunzio and Brown also are standouts in their supporting roles. Their characters are revealed slowly, first in Act I right after the murder, and then in Act II as they bare open their characters’ real personalities.
Laurino, like Sizer, once again is back in a male role at LMP. Again, she is able to pull this off, and we forget we are watching an actress. She is perfectly smarmy as drug kingpin Oliver Costello.
Bloom is fine as the adorable daughter. Although I had the feeling the part was written for a younger girl, Bloom carries off the age difference well and makes Pippa endearing.
Henle as the butler, Patrick Pase as the husband and Elizabeth Feuerbach as the Doctor also give noteworthy performances.
Johnston proves himself an impressive local theater director. This is his second time directing a play at LMP in 2018. Spider’s Web has great timing, and a perfect integration of acting and the technical aspects of the production. He is assisted by Lori Bruun.
Sizer and Johnston are also responsible for this drawing room set. Magically, they create depth to this small stage and recreate an upscale British drawing room complete with French doors and secret passages. Sizer also created the lighting design. Regular patrons of LMP will notice the changes as the theater has installed a brand-new computerized lighting system. It works well in this British mystery, creating various moods for the viewer. Chris Sisson completes this with a vast array of perfectly timed sound effects and original music.
The cast as a whole did wonderfully with their British accents from Cockney and Welsh to proper upper-class diplomat. Sierra Young is the Dialect Coach and keeps the accents consistent and regional. Marge McGugan’s costumes also reflect the times, location and social station of the characters.
If you love a good murder mystery (who doesn’t?) this production of Spider’s Web will not disappoint you. This production is another high mark for the Playhouse. Well done!
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.