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Review: The Hollow – Westchester Playhouse

The HollowThe Hollow Pic
Kentwood Players – Los Angeles, CA
Westchester Playhouse
Remaining shows: May 16- June 21, 2014, Fri/Sat @ 8 PM; Sun @ 2 PM
But Tickets Here
By Kristina Lendrum

A good murder-mystery takes time to set up. If done right, it lasts a few hours, tantalizes us with clues, twists, and doubts, before surprising us all with the inevitably shocking conclusion. The Kentwood Players’ production of “The Hollow,” directed by George Kondreck and produced by Sheldon and Arlene Cohen, is a solid example of this; the running time is three hours, and it holds your interest faithfully until the end.

Based on an Agatha Christie novel of the same name, the play opens with the Angkatell clan – the matriarch, Lady Lucy; her husband, Sir Henry; and younger cousins Henrietta, Midge, and Edward – preparing for a weekend at Ainswick, their family estate. Accompanying them are family friends John and Gerda Cristow. It quickly becomes apparent that there is more than meets the eye with regards to the relations of these folk, and when John Cristow is murdered, a trove of hidden emotions is unearthed in the search for who killed him.

The performances are very engaging. With some plays, there is a tendency for the script to sound wooden – very obviously memorized and performed. It is an affliction suffered to a certain degree by most of the actors, particularly in the smaller roles. The butler Gudgeon (Harold Dershimer), the servant-girl Doris (Janet Lee Rodriguez), Sir Henry Angkatell (Jack Winnick), and Detective Sergeant Penny (Doug Mattingly) all have this problem, but as the script itself never gives these characters a true chance to shine, the actors do well with what they are given, and play the roles with varying levels of charm, energy, and enthusiasm.

Jennifer Sperry, as Henrietta Angkatell, and Heather Barnett, as Midge Harvey, both improve throughout the play, bringing these two lonely, independent women to life. Elaine Arnett is wonderful as the absentminded Lady Lucy, and she makes the prose-y speech work for her character. Where she excels is her physicality: her way of walking, moving around the stage, and holding herself, makes Lucy more lifelike than any other character in the play. Darryl Maximilian Robinson, who plays Inspector Colquhoun, gives us some of the best comedic moments with his exaggerated physicality and line delivery, and the sense that he knows more of what’s happened than the family thinks.

Dylan Bailey and Kiah Gordon –John and Gerda Cristow, respectively – are the best part of the whole play. Bailey brings John Cristow to life through his line delivery, imbuing each phrase with the level of emotion it deserves, and an understated way of moving around the space that gives the impression of a real person, not just words on paper. Gordon gives Gerda a nervous, twitchy physicality that suits the character well, and stays consistent and believable in the way she delivers her dialogue, culminating in a wracked, tearful monologue. They are both well-rounded characters who have clear thoughts, desires, and paths. John Cristow has some less-than-admirable traits, but Bailey somehow makes him strangely likeable; and rather than causing us to be annoyed at the too-anxious character of Gerda, Gordon makes us sympathize and even ache for what she has to go through.

The Hollow is solidly performed by the Kentwood Players. However, the play itself is flawed; instead of feeling like a plot driven by the characters, it feels more like a series of points that utilizes each character to get further in the story. It works well as a mystery – it kept me guessing, right to the end. But the whole time, I was aware I was watching a play, and I spent more time trying to piece together the clues than connecting with the characters. But that’s not much to complain about, and all in all, The Hollow is enjoyable and surprisingly funny. If you get a chance, check it out.


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