Murder most malicious has transpired at the City Lights Theater Company—and we couldn’t be more delighted about it.
The theater is showcasing its first ever murder mystery performance and they’re starting with a bang. The Hollow is a play written by the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie, and takes the audience on a trip to the sunny English countryside… but there’s a storm coming. A body turns up. Detectives come knocking. A number of guns begin popping up in unexpected places. And a messy snarl of romantic relationships are uncovered. Who committed the crime? The movie star? The mistress?… Or did the butler do it?
Here are three reasons why you should consider buying yourself a ticket:
It’s Directed by an Agatha Christie Diehard
One reason The Hollow truly shines at City Lights is because it’s overseen by a self-proclaimed Agatha Christie “hyper-fangirl.” Ever since Director Doll Piccotto acted in one of Christie’s plays, she’s studied the author with the tenacity and thoroughness of a forensic investigator on a crime scene. Actually, she’s read her way through every single one of Christie’s books (no small feat considering the author published over 66 novels, not including all the plays and short stories).
“[Christie] has such an ability to lay out all the clues for you… [and] it’s so satisfying to watch those pieces all come together,” describes Piccotto. In fact, these clever plots and twist-endings earned the early 1900s novelist the Guinness World Records achievement of best-selling novelist of all time (an accolade not even JK Rowling has managed to take from her).
“You see pictures of her, and you see this demure little old lady… [But she] towed the line when it came to convention,” Piccotto laughs. For starters, she was one of the first English women who ever surfed… And then, of course, there was the time she framed her husband for her own murder.
Piccotto explains that Christie went missing right around the time her husband wanted to divorce her. “Her car was found on the edge of a quarry [with] some of her clothes in it. Of course, the husband’s the first one that’s suspected,” she says. “So they start digging into his past and discover his mistress, drag his name through the mud and the papers… And then, all of a sudden, they find [Christie] at this spa, chilling out! And she’s registered under her husband’s mistress’s name—which is just savage.” When the authorities questioned her about the incident, Christie feigned a case of amnesia, and the matter was dropped.
From such a curious mind is it any wonder her stories were one-of-a-kind?
You’ll Meet Some Intriguing Suspects
But out of Christie’s vast range of work, why specifically The Hollow? Piccotto shares that this script is one of Christie’s more psychological ones. “This play is about relationships,” she explains. “This is a play about how people interact with each other, the relationships they have, and how they develop.”
The cast has embodied the characters with enthusiasm. “They’re excited!” she says. “They’re reading extra source material… They’re really getting into the spirit of this murder mystery.”
Expect a particularly exceptional performance from actress Karen DeHart, who plays the flighty Lady Lucy Angkatell. Lucy, an older matron (and a repeat offender of the nonsequitur), chats about murder and sandwiches with the same offhanded air. And DeHart does a fantastic job of keeping you guessing whether she’s harmless or lethal.
Actress Caitlin Lawrence Papp also does a splendid job of playing the less than intelligent Gerda. Her eyebrows have a habitual way of shooting skyward in confusion and her wide-eyed way of gawking in alarm (whenever she can’t understand something) gives the impression of a chicken caught in the headlights.
In fact, the furtive glances, scrunched brows, and pained grimaces communicated by the entire cast add another psychological touch to the performance. Because of the intimate size of the theater, the audience can easily make out and scrutinize these reactions, drawing their own conclusions as to the meaning behind them.
“I hope we get a lot of amateur detectives out there ready to come and solve this mystery.”
You’ll Be Playing Detective
In a way, that intimate performance space also gives the audience the impression of being in the room with the suspects. It won’t take long before your brain starts “assisting” Inspector Colquhoun and Detective Sergeant Penny with your own theories on the investigation.
Piccotto explains classic whodunnits engage viewers in ways other plays don’t. “The audience is playing detective and that is exciting!” she says. “I hope we get a lot of amateur detectives out there ready to come and solve this mystery.”
She especially loves hearing folks swap theories during intermission—as well as their reactions to the Big Reveal. “When the audience gets it, when they finally realized who did it, there’s this wave—you can hear it. Somebody in the front row will just be like, “Ah, oh my gosh,’ and then you just hear it kind of ripple through the audience.”
But pitting your wits against crafty Christie is easier said than done. She had a way of making you second and third guess your assumptions, throwing in enough twists and turns to rival San Francisco’s Lombard Street. “Nothing was off the table for her,” Picotto laughs.
Her advice to all the amateur detectives? “Suspect. Absolutely. Everyone.”
Don your trench coat and step into the world of The Hollow before the show closes on March 6th.
Showtimes are Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets sold online, at the door, and in advance by calling 408-295-4200
Must provide proof of full Covid vaccination.