Robin Leary is a big Agatha Christie fan, so the opportunity to be cast in the Home Made Theater production of “Witness for the Prosecution” was too good to pass up.
“I have read that it was her favorite,” said Leary, who also performed in a Christie play, “And Then There Were None,” at Home Made in February 2012. “It has several twists and turns that make it fun for the audience. I enjoy all of her mysteries, and if they find a part for me, I’ll take it.”
Dianne O’Neill Filer is directing Home Made’s production of “Witness for the Prosecution,” which opens Friday night and runs for two weekends at the Spa Little Theater at Saratoga Spa State Park. Also in the cast are Victor Cahn as Sir Wilfrid Robarts, Devra Cohen-Tigor as Romaine and Jonathan Hefter as Leonard Vole.
The character Leary is playing is Miss Myers, the prosecutor who in the original Christie play is actually a male.
‘Witness for the Prosecution’
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 23
HOW MUCH: $26-$23
MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org
‘Caroline, or change’
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens 8 p.m. Friday and runs through Feb. 16; show times are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28-$18
MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378, sloctheater.org
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 23
HOW MUCH: $15-$10
MORE INFO: 462-1297, www.albanycivictheater.org
“We changed the gender for two reasons,” explained O’Neill Filer. “We didn’t get as many men auditioning as we hoped, and there were women jurists in England at the time with powerful reputations. We thought it’d be nice to emphasize the fact that women could in fact serve in that position back then.”
The time was the 1950s, and the place was London. The story revolves around a distinguished master barrister, played by Cahn, who decides to defend a man accused of murdering an older rich widow. When the man’s wife suddenly fails to provide an alibi for her husband, the case crumbles.
“It was originally written for a male, but when they decided to change the gender and give me a shot at the role, I was very happy to take it,” said Leary. “I get to nail the defender to the wall, so to speak, so I have some fun.”
Veteran at Home Made
According to O’Neill Filer, Leary is perfect for the part.
“There are some funny bits, and Robin, bless her heart, is doing a great job,” she said. “Written into the script is the lawyer having this annoying habit that drives Sir Wilfred crazy, and Robin has come up with a funny habit, which certainly provides a chortle. It’s really not a funny play, like some of Christie’s, but there is a smile produced here and there.”
Leary has been involved in Home Made Theater productions since the group produced its first play at Caffe Lena in 1985.
“Music was more of my extracurricular activity in school,” said Leary. “But I started working backstage with Home Made at Caffe Lena, and I got my first part after they moved to the Little Theater in ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ [in 1986]. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Leary, who also landed a role in Home Made’s spring production of “Boeing, Boeing,” said she’s never had any higher aspirations for the theater. But that could change.
“Well, if there’s a big agent in the audience and he offers me a new career, I would take it,” she said.
Sharing the stage with Leary, Cahn, Cohen-Tigor and Hefter are William M. Sanderson, Terri Storti and Rick Wissler.
“Christie is a very clever writer,” said O’Neill Filer, who also directed Home Made’s production of “And Then There Were None.” “She’s an elegant writer and has a certain cadence in her language that’s almost melodic, which the actors and the audience really enjoy.”
“Witness for the Prosecution” made its world premiere in London in October of 1953 and ran on Broadway from December of 1954 through June of 1956, earning two Tonys for Best Actor (Francis L. Sullivan) and Best Actress (Patricia Jessel). Hollywood made the movie version in 1957 with Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton. The film was a commercial success and earned six Oscar nominations.
'Caroline,' 'Boeing' also opening
Also opening this weekend are “Caroline, or Change” at the Schenectady Light Opera Company and “Boeing, Boeing” at Albany Civic Theater.
“Caroline, or Change” is Tony Kushner’s story about a black woman in Lake Charles, La., who finds it difficult to change amidst the turbulent times of the American civil rights movement. The story is set in November 1963. Barbara Howard stars as Caroline, and Corie Rowe is directing.
“The show begins on the day that JFK is assassinated,” said Rowe, who is directing her first production for SLOC. “The civil rights movement is going on along with all these other things, and Caroline is resistant to all this change. Barbara Howard is a fantastic singer and actor, and the music in this show is absolutely beautiful.”
“Boeing, Boeing” is a classic French farce, written by Marc Campoletti and adapted for the English stage by Beverly Cross. It opened at the Apollo Theatre in London in 1962 and by 1991 had become the most performed French play in theater history.
Revived on Broadway in 2008, the play won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play and Best Leading Actor (Mark Rylance) and was nominated for four others.
The story centers around a swinging bachelor who gets engaged simultaneously to three different stewardesses. Directed by Adam M. Coons, the ACT production stars Jason Biszick, Jennifer Bullington, Annie Bunce, Heather-Liz Copps, Alex Jones and Lori Porter.