By REBECCA J. WILLIAMSON | La Mesa Courier
Agatha Christie’s murder mystery play “The Mousetrap” is the longest-running play in modern history. It opened in London’s West End in 1952 and has not closed yet.
The up-and-coming production of Christie’s play “The Hollow,” put on by Lamplighters Community Theatre, may not run quite as long. Not because it isn’t popular, but their next play, “Company,” opens May 1. Scheduling issues hamper another 68-year run. “The Hollow” opens Feb. 28 and closes March 29.
“Almost every performance sells out,” said director Mark Loveless of their Christie productions. “We do Agatha Christie almost every year.”
A “British cozy cottage mystery” — as some reference the genre — involves cheating, romance, a murder, and characters that all might have wanted the victim dead. Or, a gathering of guests at a country house disturbed by an abrupt death.
“In the second act it won’t be clear who did it,” said actress Connie Terwilliger who plays Lady Lucy Angkatell. “People think they know who did it but then it changes.”
Christie is known for writing victims that very few empathize with. The victim in “The Hollow” is a philandering husband, Dr. Cristow, but still a murder victim.
“It is a play with changing romantic affiliations,” said Terwilliger. (The less polite, call it marital cheating.)
Agatha Christie aficionados can speculate if Dr. Cristow’s character is based upon Christie’s first husband Archibald Christie, who cheated on her. The marriage ended in divorce in 1928. Christie’s second marriage to Sir Max Mallowan, married in 1930, lasted until her death in 1976.
“Just before this (the murder) happens, he (Dr. Cristow) is remorseful and regrets his actions but not to his mistress,” said co-producer Heather Kenney.
“The play differs from the book,” said Loveless. “There are 12 actors.” The book debuted in the U.S. in 1946. It is considered an example of classic Christie literature.
One of those 12 actors has a long history with Christie’s brand of murder.
“I’m very familiar with Agatha Christie,” said O.P. Hadlock. “I did ‘The Mouse Trap’ in 1982 in Orange County.” Hadlock plays Sir Henry Angkatell K.C.B. in “The Hollow.”
How does some of the search go in finding a role to play for an actor?
“When you do community theater you wait for a character in your age range,” quipped Terwilliger.
When asked how to build suspense, Terwilliger responded, “It’s all in the timing, body language — plus in every speech and every line there can be different intent.”
The intent in this play is murder — and it gives an audience member a chance to be an armchair detective.
“The Hollow” plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 28 at Lamplighters Theatre, 5915 Severin Drive, La Mesa. Tickets range $18-$23. For more information or tickets, visit lamplighterslamesa.com.
— Rebecca J. Williamson is a freelance writer based in the Easy County San Diego area.