Thursday, June 8, 2023

Steel City Girl Previews: Dundas Little Theatre’s VERDICT

Columnist Amanda Cosby-Nesbitt is among Hamilton’s most active community theatre writers and reviewers. Her website, Steel City Girl Reviews shares her experiential perspective of attending shows and speaking to performers about their work.

Two years after it’s originally planned performance date of April 2020, Dundas Little Theatre is preparing to finally welcome audiences to Agatha Christie’s VERDICT. Cast and crew have been waiting almost exactly two years to share this production with audiences.

Instead of the whodunnits that Agatha Christie is known for, VERDICT focuses on the psychology of relationships and the human experience. The play tells the story of Karl, a brilliant professor, who cares for his ill wife, Anya. When Karl’s cousin, Lisa, moves in to assist in caring for Anya, tensions rise and feelings develop.

Steel City Girl, Amanda Cosby-Nesbitt met virtually with Rebecca Durance Hine, who has been preparing all this time to play the character of Lisa.

Amanda: Can you describe what influenced you to audition for Dundas Little Theatre’s production of VERDICT?

Rebecca: In terms of VERDICT in particular, the subject matter and the character of Lisa both really spoke to me. This Christie play is very different from her others; it’s much more about the human experience in the time before and in the wake of a murder, with a whole host of complex relationships woven in between, versus being about the murder itself, like most whodunnits. I felt like this play was a really great opportunity to explore a rich character and her affecting relationships, and as a bonus, the results of said exploration are something I can take with me into future roles. And then the cast and crew! I love working with Peter [Lloyd], the director, and it has been such fun to work with everyone who is involved in this show. It’s been an honour to get to know everyone and share the stage with them, our first stage since COVID.

Amanda: What is challenging about bringing this script to life?

Rebecca: This play is not a straightforward whodunnit. It has complex relationships and conflicting personalities and ripples and aftershocks and everything that comes with being a human with human emotions and judgements and opinions. Doing those justice, unravelling them fully for the audience so they can explore them along with us, is the biggest challenge, and one that I think we have all risen to. While working on this show, it has also been the biggest source of fun, creativity, and satisfaction in my life, and it wouldn’t have been all of those things without the accompanying challenge!

Amanda: What has been the biggest challenge about taking on the role of your character in VERDICT?

Rebecca: [My character] Lisa is very practical and very logical, whereas I’m an empath; I feel things very acutely before I think, reflect, and act on them. I can see where the others in the play are coming from, even though I don’t agree with their actions, and that’s something Lisa can’t do. Focusing on her logic to drive my emotions and subsequent reactions has been an interesting challenge.

It’s always fun to tap into something and someone different from yourself. That’s one of the most beautiful things about acting: it gives you an opportunity to place yourself in someone else’s position and thereby understand them and others like them better, perhaps even understand yourself better in contrast.

Amanda: What have you learned about yourself as an actor while playing this role?

Rebecca: Lisa does a lot of listening and observing in this play. She’s firm and outspoken, but she also knows when to fade into the background and take things in. That’s something this role has allowed me to develop as an actor, my silent reactions (not just the verbal ones), and it has reaffirmed for me the power of listening.

Amanda: How is Dundas Little Theatre’s production bringing something new to the staging and story of VERDICT?

Rebecca: First and foremost, I think the first shows post-COVID have a new magic all their own. I know I have watched recent productions with more gratitude, joy, care, and thought than ever before, and this first post-COVID cast experience has had that extra level of all of those as well. We all feel it.

Every staging of a play is unique because the people bringing it to life are too. The cast brings a wonderful energy to this show. The relationships between the characters are the foundation of this play, and so it is our dynamic as a cast and crew that really drives this thing and brings our own, unique spark to it. I really can’t wait to share that spark with audiences!

Amanda: Agatha Christie is often renowned for her body of work in the realm of murder mystery. How does this work speak to audiences and what do you hope audiences take away from this show?

Rebecca: This show aims to make viewers question the lengths to which mercy, compassion, and loyalty should go and, more importantly, where they should stop. And it may also frustrate people a little, which I think is always a good emotion to reflect on and question when we feel it. Where is its root and why has it been elicited in us? I think VERDICT speaks to humanity and the human condition. It poses philosophical questions of morality and love, and I think the answers people will come up with are going to be as unique to them as this work is to Christie’s collection – one of a kind.

Who: Dundas Little Theatre
Length: Approximately 2 hours, 10 minutes
Where: 37 Market Street South, Dundas
When:  April 29, 30, May 6, 7, 12-14 at 8pm; May 8 & 15 at 2pm
Tickets: $15 – $20 through Dundas Little Theatre or by calling 905-627-5266

Amanda Cosby-Nesbitt
Amanda Cosby-Nesbitt
Amanda Cosby-Nesbitt (she/her) has been writing for community theatre for several years under the moniker Steel City Girl Reviews and is a dedicated advocate for the arts in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. Amanda has a B.A. Honours in English and History as well as a minor in Theatre and Film Studies through McMaster University. She brings with her a wide knowledge of and passion for the theatre community having been both onstage and working behind the scenes with many theatre productions and venues.

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