WESTERLY — Directing a play with a large cast has its challenges, but when the play is an Agatha Christie mystery full of fabulous characters with talented actors to play the parts, the challenges are easily overcome.

"I've been blessed with some great casts as a director, but this one is probably my favorite," said John Cillino, who directs Christie's "The Hollow" — on stage at the Granite Theatre this month. "Everybody has a chance to shine in this show and they all take advantage of their moments."

"The Hollow," he said, is based on a Hercule Poirot novel that was adapted for the stage, leaving out the mustachioed Belgian detective. It tells the story of Lady Angkatell ("arguably Christie’s finest comic grande dame,") who, with her husband, Sir Henry Angkatell, invites several guests for a weekend a their estate, "The Hollow," where "an unhappy game of romantic follow-the-leader explodes into murder." Dr. Cristow, the Harley Street lothario, is at the center of the trouble at "The Hollow" where, all assembled in one place, are his dull but devoted wife, Gerda; his mistress and prominent sculptor, Henrietta; and his former lover and Hollywood film star, Veronica. Also visiting are Edward and Midge whose romantic assertions are likewise thrown into the mix. As the list of romantic associations grow so does the list of potential suspects when Cristow is shot dead. Nearly everyone has a motive but only one of them did the deed. 

"As I found with 'Murder is Announced,'" Cillino said, referring to the last Christie play he directed at the Granite, "the most interesting characters are the women."

Not only are the actresses playing the women fantastic, he said, but the characters themselves are complicated women with "multiple dimensions to them."

Molly Marks returns to the Granite, after a near-decade long hiatus, to play the role of Lady Angkatell, Cillino said, and is "charming and entertaining" in the lead role. Joining Marks on stage will be Claire Leatham in the role of Veronica Craye, the film actress; Michelle Mania as Gerda Cristow; Veronica Strickland as Henrietta Angkatell; Lydia Fascia as Midge Harvey and Ann Westendorf as Doris. The male members of the cast include Michael Jepson in the role of Inspector Colquhoun, C.L.D.; Geoff Leatham as Sir Henry Angkatell; Michael Thurber as Dr. John Cristow; Tom Steenburg as Edward Angkatell; Bob Mignarri as Gudgeon and Warren Usey as Detective Sergeant Penny.

"It's an interesting story ... with a very solid cast," said Cillino, with plenty of "twists and turns along the way."

"I hope everyone will enjoy it," he said.

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