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Theater review: Actors’ Net entertains with Agatha Christie’s “Spider’s Web”

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The cleverness with which Agatha Christie writes cannot be denied.

One of her mysteries, “Spider’s Web,” is her second most successful play (744 performances). It ran longer than “Witness for the Prosecution,” which premiered in 1953 (458 performances).

Currently, “Spider’s Web” is bringing laughter and anticipation to the Heritage Center in Morrisville, performed by the Actors’ Net company, and since it plays for two more weekends through Feb. 16, you might have sufficient chance to get tickets. Keep in mind it’s a small theater ...77 seats. Call ahead to order.

While all of the performers were quite good in the roles they played, it is Charlotte Kirkby as leading character, Clarissa Hailsham-Brown, who cleverly carries the story with strength and confidence. Excellent at her craft, Kirkby always is in control. She really knows how to “take stage.”

Of course, there is a murder. It’s an Agatha Christie story, after all. Of course, there is a very suspicious detective and his sidekick. And what would Christie be if there were no secret passageways, mysterious employees, five exits, a desk with hidden cubbies? It has good suspense and surprises throughout.

Mary Alice Rubins-Topoleski confidently and amusingly portrays somewhat suspicious groundskeeper Mildred Peake who has keys to every door in the house. Vanessa Nolan plays Pippa, the young lady who is Kirkby’s ward. Did young Pippa unwittingly and accidentally commit the murder?

Ed Patton does a fine job as Inspector Lord accompanied by Joe Ryan as Constable Jones. Chris Capitolo plays Jeremy Warrender who “fancies” Kirkby. Ken Ammerman portrays Oliver Costello whose life is short-lived; James E. Flint is very good as Sir Rowland Delahaye who finds Kirkby to be fascinating; Joe Stockette plays Hugo Birch, the fourth friend.

Matt Duchnowski plays the small role of Henry Halsham-Brown, Kirkby’s husband who is away more than he is at home; while butler Hans Peters is under great suspicion, of course.

The hand of director C. Jamison Bradley carefully was at work in this production as he moved the actors around for believable, realistic discussions, ones which often project what will happen. A fine actor and director, he invites the best of his actors, and he gets the best. Also, Bradley designed and helped to build the set, which gave his actors a believable space in which to work, including the secret. Bradley is a master carpenter as well as an actor-director-singer.

Cheryl Doyle is producer, Andrena Wishnie is co-director and does lighting design and operation; Theresa Vassalo oversaw costumes, Christopher Root is sound designer and operator and Renee Root is stage manager.

It is worth noting that leading lady Charlotte Kirkby spins her stories cleverly as did another Charlotte who spun various winning webs for Wilbur in “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White. Interestingly, “Charlotte’s Web” was published in 1952; “The Spider Web” premiered in London’s West End in 1954. You can draw your own conclusions if there are any to be drawn.

This entertaining production of “Spider’s Web” plays Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. at 635 Delmorr Ave., Morrisville. For reservations or questions, call 215-295-3694 or email actorsnet@aol.com. To purchase tickets online, visit actorsnetbucks.org/.


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