OLT's Deliver us from Evil is a mystery in search of meaningful conclusions
by Sara Duplancic
If you enjoy murder mysteries with British sensibilities (and slightly lacking in sense), Deliver us from Evil is your cup of tea. Directed skillfully by Ottawa Little Theatre veteran Sarah Hearn, the show proves a good alternative to the PBS and TVO mystery show line-up — but breaks no new theatrical ground.
Set in Wychcombe Magna, a seemingly sleepy country village in rural England, the play sees a new rector and his wife move into the newly built rectory to lead the village parish. As they gain acceptance from the locals and become friendly with the neighbours, we discover that neither the village nor the villagers are quite as ordinary as they seem. In fact, the entire town is burdened by a tragedy that occurred several years ago — as are the new rector and his wife. As the past resurrects and begins to haunt their present, it seems the very rectory, where the entire play is set, is founded on evil.
First to tell this story is the set, designed by Robin Riddihough. The subtle lifelessness and sterility of the rectory drawing room are initially off-putting, but this is a deliberate choice. The desired effect, of a new house with the beginnings of hominess yet lacking in history and character, is well created. A theatrical window curtain and special effects such as rain and fire add to later suspense.
The strongest part of this production is the performances by seven talented and well cast actors. Cindy Beaton’s forceful performance carries us through the emotional trajectory of the play, while other quirkier characters such as the atheist theatre producer, played by Janet Uren, and the peculiar groundskeeper, played by Ann Scholberg, add variety to the stock of somewhat familiar British murder mystery characters.
Hearn creates good moments of suspense, as well as comedy, but the show doesn’t quite fulfill either role. The sinister storyline does not allow the comedic moments to take centre stage, and as a thriller, it lacks in thrills. In short, it is too long. Playwright J.D. Robins opens the play with too much exposition and closes with underwhelming resolution. The characters engage in long-winded explanations that do not lead to any sort of meaningful conclusions. So though this production of Deliver us from Evil is woven from fine threads, it is material frayed at the ends, delivering us little to think about after the curtain falls.
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