The Gazette, Mar 7, 2019 The Zephyr Theatre is elevating its reach of true-to-life drama this month by staging a classic Agatha Christie murder mystery in a real courtroom.
The Zephyr has partnered with the Washington County Historic Courthouse in Stillwater, allowing theatre goers to become up-close witnesses to Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution” at the courthouse March 8-17.
Mix a marriage of convenience, a generational mismatch, and a murder, and what do you get? A clear-cut case of circumstantial evidence. In this courtroom drama, the motive may be clear, but the accused has a sound alibi. Or do they? The victim’s will is changed shortly before her murder, creating more questions than answers.
“Agatha Christie’s works are so rich and infused with depth of character, as well as plot,” said Director Randal Berger of Stillwater. “It has been exciting to direct one of her plays in a space that is in itself infused with a rich depth of history.
“Not only that,” he added, “but it’s a space with a similar ‘character of time’ to when the play was published and originally performed in 1953. It is also thrilling to have the resonance and volume of the space, to help put oneself in the thick of this courtroom drama.”
All 18 cast members play characters integral to the plot, said Berger, featuring Sir Wilfrid Robarts, Queen’s Counsel for the Defense (played by Phil Bratnober); Mr. Mayhew, Solicitor (Joe Papke); Leonard Vole, “a friendly likable young man accused of murder” (Alex Galick); Romaine, Leonard’s wife, among other plot connections (Mary Shaffer); and Mr. Myers, Queen’s Counsel for the Prosecution (Michael Quadrozzi).
Berger said he is particularly inspired by this play because “it is rare to find a piece that can truly surprise you. This one did for me!”
Berger has worked for three previous Zephyr Theatre shows, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 2018 and “Twelfth Night” in 2017 as an actor and assistant director, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 2018 as assistant director. Berger also has directed several other plays in the region.
“Washington County Parks is excited to welcome The Zephyr Theatre to the Historic Courthouse for productions of Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution,” said Lori Meyers, the county parks’ guest service supervisor.
“The courtroom offers a perfect backdrop for this 1920s drama. More than a theatre setting, it offers a glimpse of the oldest standing courthouse in Minnesota, which opened in 1870,” said Meyers. “As well as supporting The Zephyr Theatre, $8 from each ticket sold will go towards the restoration fund for the courthouse. We hope this is just a beginning of future collaborations with the theatre both at the courthouse and in Washington County Parks.”
“Witness” performances will be held Fridays, March 8 and 15, at 7 p.m.; Saturdays, March 9 and 16, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sundays, March 10 and 17, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Regular tickets are $28 to $48 (including the $8 courthouse restoration fee). Tickets are available online at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org, or at the door. The Historic Courthouse is at 101 Pine St. W., Stillwater. Special tickets for the eight seats in the jury box are available for $100 each. To reserve jury seats, contact The Zephyr Theatre’s Artistic Director Calyssa Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Zephyr Theatre purchased its home in the former Zephyr depot in 2018. The Zephyr is a nonprofit, professional performing arts company, offering live theatre, film, concerts, visual arts exhibits, literary arts, arts classes for youth and adults, community rental space and more. The theatre is fundraising to build a 330-seat auditorium onto the north end of the building. For more information visit stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org or call 651-342-1542.