By Natalie Sit
Congratulations! You’ve just won the lottery. It’s time to dump your fiancé and marry a person you just met. That’s how Love From a Stranger begins.
Pleiades Theatre’s newest project is based on Agatha Christie’s short story, Philomel Cottage, begins as Cecily (Elizabeth Strepkowski) preparates to rent her apartment. Set in Britain during the 1930s, Cecily wins 10,000 £ which is enough to realize her dreams. However, her fiancé Nigel (John Kirkpatrick) will not allow her to postpone the marriage, forcing Cecily to call it off. Enter Bruce (Ryan Luhning) as a potential tenant, fresh from rugged Canada. Their conversations are so scintillating, Cecily runs away and marries Bruce. The newlyweds move to the countryside to begin their new life together. Things don’t end as happily.
Love From a Stranger poses the universal question "What would happen if I did what I really wanted?" While the first act tries to answer that question, it’s left behind as the play progresses. Instead a suspense-filled plot brimming with tension until the last minute emerges. The ending leaves the viewer wondering what really happened.
The actors are all solid, supporting and move the play along, but never overshadow the storyline. Strepkowski is good at portraying Cecily’s desire to leave and live her dream. Luhning is excellent as well, hiding Bruce’s dark side with innocent smiles and glib lies.
The biggest problem with this play are the attempts to inject humour. While Aunty Lulu (Clarice Evans), Cecily’s aunt, is funny within the context of her actions, the comic characters of Hodgson and Ethel seemed forced into the plot–they should have reamined Hodgson the gardener and Ethel the maid. The play is diminished by poking fun at Hodgson’s unsatiable taste for liquor and Ethel’s reputation as the "village beauty." By act two, that feeling of suspense should be expanded, but another small problem arises: is the accents of Ethel and Hodgson. It may seem nit picky, but if the two are related and live in the same area, shouldn’t they have the same accents? Accents may be hard to keep consistent, but this distracts from the story.
Still, the heart of Love From a Stranger finds a good, twist-filled story with strong acting. Love From a Stranger runs at the Pleiades Theatre until Feb. 13.