Of all the webs of deceit spun in Clear Creek Community’s production of “Spider’s Web,” the most impressive trickery is the intricate weaving of plot, pace and character spun by Agatha Christie herself.
With the rampant popularity of the television show “Downton Abbey,” surely it’s time for a Christie revival. While her stories are a few decades along in British history, they share some of the same elements that make the television juggernaut so popular. There are references to real history, the examination of the class system and great characters, and the withering, witty put-downs as humorous as they are cruel. But with Christie, you have the added bonus of a murder mystery to solve.
Director Aprille Meek deserves a standing ovation for this show, which is excellent in all aspects, from the production design to the performances.
C. Alane Johnson is charming in the starring role of Clarissa Hailsham-Brown. It’s a fun and frothy performance highlighting all the character’s most lovable characteristics. Best of all, Johnson ensures we understand just how much Clarissa struggles with her knack for making falsehoods seem true and the truth seem false.
Her partners in crime are ably played by John Lazo, Robert Peeples and Adrian Soto. Lazo’s Sir Rowland Delahaye was such a dear I’d love him to be my guardian. Peeples was very funny as fusty Justice of The Peace Hugo Birch, and Soto was excellent as Jeremy Warrender, a decent young man who not so secretly lusts after Clarissa.
The supporting cast gave vivid performances with English accents all firmly in place.
Whether stomping about in rubber boots or welding a pitchfork, Barbara Winburn perfectly captures gardener Mildred Peake’s ruddy and ruthless efficiency.
Steven Sarp is a delightfully blustering Henry Hailsham-Brown while Billy Chmielewski obviously relishes his role as the rotten cad Oliver Costello. Kim Christiansen is wonderfully squirrelly as the nosy housekeeper Mrs. Elgin. Brandon Hobratschk is a vigorous Inspector Lord and Mark Stanley is suitably baffled as Constable Jones.
Child actor Hannah Wolken was impressive as the constantly hungry Pippa Hailsham-Brown. It’s a role she shares with Sonja Kozuch on alternate nights. Both girls were last seen in “A Christmas Story” and are already proving to be accomplished performers.
From the floral sofa to the stone pavers, Aprille Meek’s set design perfectly evoked an upper class English country house. Richly realized and solidly constructed, it is the best set I’ve seen at Clear Creek.
The rest of the product team also create work of a high standard. John Meek’s lighting design, Julie Mattheaus’ props and Ray Banks sound design are all top notch.
The three and a half-hour running time does numb the bottom but never dulls the mind. The action never drags as this is an enthralling show from start to finish thanks to the high quality work of cast and crew, and Agatha Christie’s unparalleled storytelling skills.
Christie’s characters are complex and real, the plot is intricate but never contrived and it’s always fun to try and work out “who dunnit.” The endings are satisfying and after the show is over it continues to entertain as you look back over the action and admire how cleverly Christie spun her web.
It’s easy to see why the Christie murder mysteries are a fixture on the Clear Creek Community Theatre calendar. If you’re an Anglophile, a who dunnit fan, a Christie nut or you just enjoy a well-made theater show make sure you don’t miss this high quality production.
WHAT: “Spider’s Web”
WHEN: Until Sunday; performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Clear Creek Community Theatre, 18091 Upper Bay Road, in Nassau Bay
TICKETS: $14 and $12
INFORMATION: 281-335-5228 or www.clearcreekcommunitytheatre.com/