A mystery with promise

A mysterious woman walks into an opera box at the beginning of Central Alberta Theatre ’s Evelyn Strange and warns: “I don’t want to be rushed…” This line ends up foreshadowing the slow pacing of a production that could take itself less seriously.

A mysterious woman walks into an opera box at the beginning of Central Alberta Theatre ’s Evelyn Strange and warns: “I don’t want to be rushed…”

This line ends up foreshadowing the slow pacing of a production that could take itself less seriously.

Although some things could have gone better at Thursday’s dress rehearsal, I should mention the positives about this promising noirish mystery by Edmonton playwright Stewart Lemoine that’s being staged as a dinner theatre at the Quality Inn North Hill.

It has a talented young cast of local actors, including Nicole Leal in the title role. And it has an original premise — although to reveal much of it would let too many surprises out of the bag.

Suffice it to say that Perry Spangler, a bookish sub-editor at a publishing house, is asked to meet his boss’s wife, Nina Ferrer, at New York’s Metropolitan Opera when his boss can’t make it.

Once Nina (played by Elysha Snider), bails on Wagner’s Siegfried after the first intermission, Perry (Paul Sutherland) gets into a conversation with the other occupant of the opera box. She calls herself Evelyn Strange.

It turns out this striking stranger can’t remember who she is, or what she did earlier that day — which is problematic when the body of a man turns up in Central Park and police are seeking to question someone named Evelyn Strange.

Throw into this scenario a pushy ladies’ man named Lewis Hake, who works with Perry and can’t stop asking awkward questions about his colleague’s new “date,” and you have the makings of a pot-boiler mystery.

Overly-earnest plays set in the 1950s require a certain melodramatic approach. Actors with a heightened delivery can wring wit and humour out of scripted dialogue that might not otherwise come across as terribly funny or clever. (See most Alfred Hitchcock movies).

Director Tara Rorke has instead opted to tackle this production in a dry, naturalistic style. As as a result, long, wordy exchanges between characters often come across as flat and uninspiring.

A solution would be for all the actors to crank it up a notch or two. For instance, Sutherland’s Perry Spangler is supposed to be mild-mannered, but still takes it too much in stride that he’s befriended an amnesiac who might well be a murderer.

Leal is appealing as Evelyn, but in a confused, girl-next-door way, rather than as a potentially dangerous femme fatale — which is the edge her mysterious character requires. Much the same can be said of Ryan Mattila’s portrayal of Lewis Hake. He would benefit from more explosive and unpredictable alpha-male tendencies.

Of the four cast members, Snider comes closest to hitting the mark as Nina Ferrer, who isn’t quite what she seems. Snider brings appropriate emotional tautness to the role, and her scenes have spark.

There’s hope yet for Evelyn Strange. Once the many overlong set changes are resolved (an audience doesn’t need to see whole rooms take shape, sparse set pieces will do), and the actors pick up their pacing and energy levels, this play could live up to the promise suggested by its premise.

While now a diamond in the rough, Evelyn Strange has what it takes to shine. It continues to April 9.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Johnson & Johnson via AP
What you need to know about Johnson & Johnson’s approved single-dose vaccine

Canada added a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to its pandemic-fighting arsenal on Friday,… Continue reading

FILE - This March 20, 2018, file photo shows the YouTube app on an iPad in Baltimore. YouTube on Friday, March 5, 2021, said it has removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military for violating its community guidelines and terms of service. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
YouTube cancels Myanmar military-run channels, pulls videos

YouTube monitoring the situation for any content that might violate rules

Statistics Canada’s offices in Ottawa are shown on Friday, March 8, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canada posts $1.4B trade surplus for January, first surplus since May 2019

Total imports increased in January to $49.8 billion

The wreckage of a fatal crash involving a semi-truck and the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus near Tisdale, Sask., is seen on Saturday, April, 7, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Court to hear arguments on delay in Broncos lawsuit for proposed class action

11 lawsuits have been filed by victims and their families

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Team Canada third John Morris follows as second Carter Rycroft (right) and lead Nolan Thiessen (left) sweep his rock during round robin competition against Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Brier curling championship, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Champions at The Brier list

Brier champions since the inception of the Canadian men’s curling championship in… Continue reading

FILE - This Jan. 22, 2013 file photo shows Martin Bashir at the EA SimCity Learn. Build. Create. Inauguration After-Party, in Washington. British police said Thursday March 4, 2021, that they will not launch a criminal investigation into the journalist Martin Bashir over his 1995 interview with the late Princess Diana. (Photo by Nick Wass/Invision/AP, File)
UK police won’t probe journalist over 1995 Diana interview

Diana’s brother alleged Bashir used false documents to convince Diana

Dillon Dube scores hat trick for Flames in 7-3 win over Senators

Dillon Dube scores hat trick for Flames in 7-3 win over Senators

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp gives instructions during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Phil Noble, Pool via AP)
Liverpool slumps to historic 5th straight loss at Anfield

Liverpool slumps to historic 5th straight loss at Anfield

Philadelphia Flyers' Sean Couturier (14) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Flyers rally from early deficit to stun Penguins 4-3

Flyers rally from early deficit to stun Penguins 4-3

Most Read