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Opinion: ‘The Hollow’ suspenseful, humorous

November 15, 2012
By SARAH REED - Special to the Weekender , The Herald-Star

The file on a tremendously absorbing murder investigation will soon be permanently closed, as Friday through Sunday mark Franciscan University of Steubenville's final performances of renowned murder mystery author, Agatha Christie's "The Hollow" at the university's Anathan Theatre.

Christie's carefully crafted tale, which weaves thrilling suspense and arresting wit throughout, is masterfully interpreted by the production's cohesive and impressively talented ensemble cast of 12 students under the direction of drama professor Monica Fay Anderson.

Lying on the floor of the garden room in Sir and Lady Angkatell's opulent home, known as the Hollow, their weekend guest, Dr. John Cristow, feebly exclaims his final word, "Henrietta," before succumbing to a fatal gunshot wound, inflicted by an assailant whose identity only the physician himself can assert. Upon rushing into the room soon after hearing the shot, host and hostess, as well as several relatives - also invited to spend the weekend - and one of the manor's servants are stunned to discover the doctor's tremendously devoted wife holding a revolver while she watches, in utter shock, as her husband dies. As numbing confusion envelopes the mansion, suspicion and wild intrigue also rage. Could the doctor's extremely timid and selfless wife have wanted him dead, and if so, why? Thoughts also shift questioningly to Veronica Craye, a celebrated and very seductive Hollywood film star with a past romantic history involving Cristow, who only the evening before the doctor's death had imposed herself upon him and the other lodgers at the Hollow. She also had invited him to her cottage near the residence. Cristow's queer utterance of the name of the Angkatell's niece, who was crouched beside him as he entered mortality, is also not far from the front of everyone's minds, nor is anyone else left unsuspected as they, along with the assistance of an inspector and his underling detective, attempt to ascertain the motive for and perpetrator of this unexpected casualty.

Sarah Vink provides a wealth of lighthearted and endearing humor as Lucy Angkatell, the emotionally detached and extremely absentminded lady of the manor, as she flits about, always enthusiastically abuzz with some nonsensical musing or childishly preoccupied by an inconsequential issue.

A chilling sense of egocentrism and supreme arrogance resound strongly and alluringly throughout Joseph Andreola's portrayal of Dr. John Cristow, creating a complex and very emotionally potent man. When coupled with Melissa Redfield's attractively sturdy and refreshingly sympathetic Henrietta Angkatell, a particularly startling intensity flares, bringing about an undeniable heightening of sensation.

An immeasurable amount of sorrowful tenderness seeps through the large, injured eyes and tragically humble spirit of Rose Van Shaijik's Gerda Cristow, the doctor's belittled yet remarkably faithful wife. Van Shaijik's depiction of Gerda's uneasiness yet unfailing politeness toward her company at the Hollow and her quiet indignation while watching Pharyne Stephney's Veronica Craye unabashedly fawn over the doctor in her presence also evoke agonizing pity.

The most express way to learn the methodical strategy and the breath-baiting solution to this complex crime is to simply pop over to Anathan Theatre and pay a call to "The Hollow" for yourself. I certainly wouldn't dream of ruining the suspense because, to paraphrase part of Inspector Colquhoun's final bidding to the audience, "It's just not a kind thing to do."

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