A fun staging of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Hollow’ baffles at the Arts Barn

Who doesn’t enjoy a good murder mystery? The Hollow grand estate is the setting for this Agatha Christie caper. Sir and Lady Angkatell have welcomed friends and loved ones for a glorious weekend at their lavish country manor. Chuck McCarter as Sir Henry Angkatell has impeccable bearing and posture as the distinguished country gentleman. He tends to the musings of his wife played to the hilt by Carole Preston. As lady of the manor, Lucy Angkatell runs the household although her quips hint at diminishing or at least drifting mental capacities — not quite daft but getting there. Everyone covers up for her misstatements, and her husband even lovingly serves as “interpreter” when she seems totally out of the box. The numerous characters are identified and delineated — eleven cast members in this (nearly) post-pandemic age is huge. Still, Agatha Christie provides enough descriptive brush strokes for easy portrayal of characteristics and intentions so that we feel like we know them. But who will make an unexpected exit? How and why, and most important, by whom?

Scene from ‘The Hollow.’ Photo courtesy of Kentlands Community Players.

Midge Harvey, nicely played by Erin Klarner, is a caring cousin and family friend who helps soothe ruffled feathers and keeps the mood chirpy. Vanessa Bisbee Markowitz plays Henrietta, the long-lanky artist who speaks her mind and has her say. Melvin Smith and Alex Ade play the insufferable Dr. Cristow and his somewhat dull but lovingly committed wife Gerda, who is totally unaware of his love affair with the artist Henrietta despite clues smack in her face. Also smitten with the blatantly rude Doctor is a flamboyant movie starlet, Veronica Craye, who makes a loud garish entrance flaunting her wares and displaying her affection for Cristow in full view. Cassiane Mavromatis as Veronica is a hoot and fun to watch with her shimmy and total disregard for anyone who doesn’t fawn on her. Nik Henle is the shy and quiet Edward, who secretly longs for Midge although he seems to start off as a possible convenient match for Henrietta. Marc Rehr plays the butler, impeccably mannered, service at the ready, while Amber Champ — who interestingly is also director and set designer — flutters along as subservient waitstaff. Once guns show up for hunting, and shots are heard offstage, it’s only a matter of time before someone is stretched out dead on the parlor floor and it’s time to remember clues and pieces as to how and why (motive) they got there.

Scene from ‘The Hollow.’ Photo courtesy of Kentlands Community Players.

After all these years, Christie’s crafty twists and turns still keep you guessing, pondering, and wondering for an entertaining experience. Amber Champ’s direction keeps the pace going, and innovative casting for the Inspector makes double use of cast members. Steven Swift rounds out the ensemble as the able detective who helps the inspector tally up the clues.

Costumes by Lynn Kellner hit the mark reflecting social status, with everyone arriving comfortably, then shifting to sparkling cocktail attire and tuxes for dinner. Lighting starts bright and cheery as guests arrive admiring flowers and artwork, then dims to ominous shadowy as secrets are revealed. Special kudos to the sound design by Erin Klarner and music selections that place you squarely in post-war England countryside while still adding a bit of swing.

Agatha Christie adapted The Hollow from her novel, and the play opened in the West End in 1951. Its success led to The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952 and ran continuously until March 2020 when it closed temporarily because of the pandemic and is now running again, quite a testament to the writer of “the longest-running play in the world.”

In addition to keeping you on the edge of your seat, this fun production of The Hollow will keep your brain plotting and repositioning mental clues for an engaging experience.

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours with one 15-minute intermission.

The Hollow plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm through January 29, 2023, presented by Arts on the Green in partnership with Kentlands Community Players at the Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, MD. Tickets ($22, general; $20, students 15–21; $15, youth 14 and under) are available online or in person at the Arts Barn box office. Online ticket sales end two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Arts Barn box office, 301-258-6394.

COVID Safety: Given Montgomery County’s current COVID community level, masks are encouraged but not required in City of Gaithersburg facilities. Social distancing is also encouraged to the extent possible.

Scene from ‘The Hollow.’ Photo courtesy of Kentlands Community Players.

The Hollow
Written by Agatha Christie
Directed by Amber Champ

Cast: Vanessa Bisbee Markowitz, Chuck McCaCarter, Carole Preston, Erin Klarner, Marc Rehr, Nik Henle, Amber Champ, Alex Ade, Melvin Smith, Cassiane Mavromatis, Steven Swift, Operator Voice: Jacqueline Youm

Assistant Director: Jacqueline Youm
Scenic Design by Amber Champ
Costume Design by Lynn Kellner
Lighting Design by Jen Sizer
Sound Design by Erin Klarner
Properties Design by David Fialkoff
Stage Management: Dianne Koval