The Verdict (1958) is one of Agatha Christie’s few plays written specifically for the stage. Even though there is the prerequisite Christie murder, the theme of this work is motive rather than ‘who dunnit.’ While some of Christie’s works stand the test of time because they are famous for being famous, The Verdict stands on its own merits.
How fitting that the play closes on Valentine’s Day – not to say this is a spoiler alert.
My speculation is that Christie’s motive in writing The Verdict is to explore the quality of love. This is one Christie play that had a “take away” for this reviewer as there were some profound ideas in the script.
My seminal moment was when the doctor said, “If you want to learn about love, read the obits.” So I did. Mrs. Christie was on to something. You can certainly tell who loved and who was loved.
The other take away for me was the notion that it’s not really love if there is no suffering. All the women in this play suffered, thus validating the theory love hurts.
Christie does a good job of showing how emotional infidelity is just as powerful as the other kind. She also gives us something to think about when the man at the centre of all this drama says that it is possible to love two people at the same time. Polyamory is alive and well in this world, although the divorce lawyers work hard to keep that tidbit under wraps.
This play could have been called The Man Who Loved Books, as books are a subplot all their own. They are everywhere physically and as reference points in the dialogue. Not only is the set design by Glen Paavola and Tim Daigle exquisite, Robert Butler’s detail to costumes sets the bar in this city for amateur theatre. Co-Directors Mike Seccombe and Karl Eckstrand have done a masterful job.
Theatre goers might recognize central character, Professor Karl Hendryk, played by Rob Kwade, who blew audiences away last summer in the Fringe’s Seducing Father Brian. Marleen Jonker was perfectly cast as the other woman and Sami Desiree’s inner brat (Helen Rollander) was nicely played as the conniving rich girl. Everybody loved the antics of Mrs. Roper (Carol Stephens).
Hayden Maines, who played student Lester Cole, is still in high school and has a brilliant future ahead of him in theatre. Dr. Stoner, portrayed by Bernard Boland, made an inordinate number of house calls to dispense not only medicine, but words of wisdom. His patient, ill, depressed Anya Hendryk (Andrea Marantz) did a most commendable job of exhibiting the symptoms of what happens when one is married to an idealist. As Agatha Christie said, “an idealist is always dangerous.”
While Craig Oliphant as Detective Inspector Ogden and Neil Johnson as Police Sargent Pearce assessed the dangers of the situation, Johnson played a double role as Sir William Rollander, “the richest man in all of England.”
Shoestring Players has enjoyed a stellar reputation for fifty years in Winnipeg’s theatre scene and there will be more hits to come. Watch for Shoestring at this summer’s Fringe Fest with their timeless production of Waiting For The Parade, about five Canadian women whose husbands are away at war.
The 200 seat venue at Nickerson Theatre, located at the Centre for the Deaf near Confusion Corner, has parking that leaves something to be desired at night, although the City waives parking restrictions for the matinees. The seats are comfortable, the sightlines are good, but troupes who don’t use mics need to really project their voices.