Michael Bergeron
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Spider’s Web at the Alley Theatre

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There are fundamentals of the drawing room murder tale and Agatha Christie seems to have perfected the formula. The Alley Theatre’s production of Christie’s Spider’s Web keeps the audience guessing. Each of the first two acts goes dark after foiling the expectation of what should’ve happened.

For instance, a typical Christie trope would be to have a murder and several suspects, only here we see the murder at the end of Act One, with a fairly good idea of the culprit. Or do we? Another twist involves the contents of an envelope hidden in a secret drawer of antique desk. Only the contents itself are another plot diversion meant to trick both cast members and viewers of the tightly constructed mystery.Spider's Web-10-edited-crop

If there’s any doubt to Christie’s influence on the form and structure of scripted mysteries just consider that last year’s Quentin Tarantino movie The Hateful Eight is simply an Agatha Christie-esque screenplay (with a lot of blood). One of the components of Christie’s writing would be dialogue so character specific that you could read the play with the character’s names not listed and yet still know who’s talking.

The current edition of Spider’s Web is the fourth time the Alley has put on this timeless play since 1958. Christie herself borrows incidents and plot points from her earlier plays and novels. The lead character of Clarissa Hailsham-Brown invents so many stories to keep her society friends entertained that when she wants to tell the actual truth nobody believes her. Alley regular Josie De Guzman as Clarissa finds the spine of her character aided by her auburn coif and a bright turquoise dress with matching shoes.

Agatha Christie’s “Spider’s Web” runs at the Alley Theatre through August 14.