Peninsula Productions’ studio theater at White Rock is where some people will meet The Stranger for the very first time.
Agatha Christie’s lesser-known suspense tale will be performed there in a late summer production August 18-28 for the Centennial Park-based theater company.
Set in early 1930s England, the screenplay follows Enid Bradshaw (played by Natalie Peters), a young businesswoman who is about to marry safe, dependable Richard Lane (Luca Herring). Then she accidentally meets the charming stranger Gerald (Harrison MacDonald) and falls in love with him. Abandoning Richard, she sets course for danger – and a shocking, devastating outcome.
The “Lost Classic” track promises vintage Christie-style suspense.
“Everyone has seen ‘The Mousetrap’ and ‘And Then There Were None,'” concluded director Alex Browne, “but few have seen ‘The Stranger,’ which Christie wrote in 1932, based on her 1924 story ‘Philomel Cottage.’ That’s partly because it was eclipsed in 1936 by another version of the same story, Love From A Stranger, in which Christie’s concept was reimagined for the stage by well-known West End actor Frank Vosper.
“This play,” Browne added, “is Christie’s original version, one of a series of her early plays that have recently been reissued and made available to theater companies from Christie’s estate after decades sitting gathering dust. For Christie fans, it’s practically the next best thing to a brand new track.”
Browne, the prominent actor, musician and newspaper reporter from the Peninsula, says he is having great fun directing the play with the help of producer Janet Ellis, wardrobe designer/photographer Kat Siemens, stage manager Hunter Lisle, production assistant Regan Holding and technical supervisor Grig Cook , Technical Advisor Logan Hallwas and Photographer Rajiv Dhaliwal.
Also joining the cast are Cassidy Hergott (as Enid’s best friend Doris) and actress/director Lori Tych (in a dual role).
“We’re staging it with the audience in a horseshoe configuration – not quite theatrical in the round, but the audience will still feel very much like an eavesdropper on private conversations,” Browne explained. “We also do it as authentically as possible to evoke the British atmosphere of the early 1930s, which is very close to my heart.”
The theme of the play is one Christie returned to often: How well can you ever know the person we choose to spend our lives with? Browne explained why the playwright revisited this theme so often.
“I think on a personal level, she felt a deep sense of betrayal because of her marriage to her first husband, Archie Christie. Just two years after she wrote Philomel Cottage, he announced he was leaving her for his mistress.
“Agatha had what we would now call a meltdown – she drove her car to a remote spot next to a chalk quarry in Surrey, England, and abandoned it,” Browne added. “For eleven days nobody knew where she was. Her family was in despair; Police searched the country for her, and crime writer Dorothy L. Sayers organized search parties. None other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hired a spiritualist medium to see if this would provide any clues as to their whereabouts.
“She was found in a small hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire, 150 miles north of her home, oddly registered under the surname of her husband’s lover,” Browne continued. “I don’t think anyone ever fully knew what happened in those 11 days. She was officially diagnosed with an episode of stress-related memory loss. People speculated about it, films were made. Christie never mentioned it in her autobiography — she took such secrets to her grave. But I have a feeling that like most writers, she used personal experience and often used her fiction to flesh out things she was feeling at the time. I think much of her private life, however heavily veiled, has found its way into the pages of her novels and her plays.”
For the most part, the actors in The Stranger are no strangers to domestic stages.
“Natalie Peters, who plays Enid, is an aspiring young actress who I was fortunate to work with as a co-cast member on Peninsula’s recent ‘Sorry Wrong Number,'” Browne noted. “She does a great job of capturing a complex character with many different layers, while still making Enid very appealing and personable.
“Harrison MacDonald as Gerald has great instincts as an actor, which he uses well to create an extremely powerful and compelling characterization.
“Cassidy Hergott offers a wonderfully sweet, wise and funny presence in a key role as Enid’s best friend, Doris.
“Luca Herring as dumped fiancé Richard embodies the soul of English integrity and restraint, but also has the ability to let you appreciate the real person suffering beneath the surface.
“Finally, Lori Tych – known for her work with the White Rock Players Club and her recent direction of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ for Peninsula Productions – does a brilliant job using her considerable expertise to create a dual role that adds to the play a welcome touch of comedy.”
Peninsula Productions’ Studio Theater is located at 14600 North Bluff Road, White Rock. For tickets and more details on The Stranger, call 604-536-8335 or visit showpass.com/the-stranger. Evening performances are at 7pm, with additional matinees at 2pm on weekends.
Arts & EntertainmentLive TheaterWhite Rock