Halloween may have passed, but its eerie air still remains. The ominous spirit of the season is carried on by the Barnstormers’ newest production, Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie, an enthralling murder mystery. I was invited by the Barnstormers to watch a dress rehearsal for their upcoming show, and I went to the theater without any expectations.
To be clear, this was a dress rehearsal, which means it was not the finished product, but thanks to the professionalism and masterfulness of the actors and crew, I was able to get a pretty good idea of what the audience should expect.
Christie’s story is like many of her other exciting mysteries, such as Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. Christie, known for her excellent prose and captivating storytelling, has become an inspiration to many, including the Barnstormers.
In an interview with The News-Letter, the show’s producer, Alexandra Meng, revealed that, during a vote for the upcoming Fall Show, Witness for the Prosecution made it to the top of the vote.
“It was a landslide. People really like horror dramas and murders, and it was something different that we haven't done before,” Meng said.
The cast carried themselves beautifully, portraying an array of characters of all ages, nationalities and fascinating personalities. A few performances stand out, such as the work of Ander Diez as Leonard, who evokes the main character’s raw emotion, Mikey Pacitti as Mr. Myers, who gives a subtly comedic and poignant performance, and Lindsay Nelson as Janet, who, though on stage for only a short time, leaves the audience with a sensational and memorable performance that is key. Though these are the highlights, all of the actors work together to build a convincing atmosphere.
The story itself is a classic mystery, but the range of displayed emotion required of the actors sets it apart from the rest. To ensure that the essence of the play is preserved, the cast has to go above and beyond.
The acting is only elevated by the work of the crew, whose tremendous job of ensuring the production goes smoothly was only slightly overshadowed by the artistic touches that bring the characters to life. From the beautiful set to the hair and makeup, the crew’s hard work hardly goes unnoticed throughout the play.
The play was directed by Brian Clemente, a professional director. As a student-run theater organization, after the plays are selected for production, the board of the Barnstormers performs a selection process to attain a professional director to translate their vision of the play into reality.
Clemente was selected, and according to Meng, he is “equally as passionate about it” as the rest of the crew. This is especially seen during the dress rehearsal, which showed how meticulous Clemente was with every detail, going hand in hand with the coherence and overall creative unity of the play.
The cast and crew’s enthusiasm for the show produces a harmonious performance. It brings to life a mystery that has the audience scratching their heads and debating with each other during intermission.
When asked what she wants audiences to take from the show, Meng said, “I want them to feel as though they are right there with the jury members, witnessing this court murder trial unfold in front of them. And I want them to be a part of it.”
And so it does. From the beginning to the end of the court scene, the audience feels like the jury, like they have an important role in how the story unfolds. Due to the acting and set design, it is hard to feel excluded from the talks of the judge and prosecutors, as your investment in the story continues to increase with every second.
The Barnstormers' production of Witness for the Prosecution was exciting, shocking and thrilling. If that doesn’t convince you to watch it, maybe one of my favorite lines will. As Agatha Christie writes:
“Very few of us are what we seem.”
Thank you to Alexandra Meng and the Barnstormers for giving us the opportunity to experience your masterful performance. The Barnstormers’ performance of Witness for the Prosecution will be held in Arellano Theater on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 5 at 3 p.m.