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ReviewStrangers on a Train

Theatre reviewStrangers on a TrainMaitland Repertory, at its theatreEnds March 4STRANGERS on a Train has a lively start, with two men meeting in an otherwise deserted dining car on a United States train in the 1950s, and the countryside flashing past through an adjoining window as they chat increasingly jovially, with one of them, Charles Bruno (Eamonn O’Reilly) suggesting to the other, Guy Haines (Peter Murray), that they each kill the troubling person in the other’s life, Guy’s soon-to-be-divorced wife and Charles’ repressive father. Guy, a rising architect, treats it as a joke, but the subsequent murder of his wife shows that Charles was serious.

The thriller, which has moments of dark humour, was adapted for the stage by Craig Warner from Patricia Highsmith’s novel. It is a demanding work for those staging it, with many different settings including rooms in various houses, offices, hotel bars and a staircase. But director Steve Ryan and his team have put together a good multi-level set and a variety of lighting switches, enabling brisk changes in time and place. And the actors make their characters believable.

While the two proposed murder victims are never seen, the audience gets to appreciate Guy’s subsequent second wife, jovial Anne (Bree Cunningham), and to feel cautious about Charles’ mother, Elsie (Aimee Cavanagh), who continues to treat him like a child. Charles uses his ability to charm people on Anne, making increasing visits to the house she and Guy occupy, thereby adding to Guy’s nervousness and impacting on his architectural work. And the demands Charles’ mother makes on him, wanting his accompaniment whenever she treks around the country because her husband is always deskbound by his business dealings, underlines Charles’ hatred of his father, along with the fact that the male parent has control of his wife’s inherited wealth and won’t give Charles any money.

The other characters include Terry Allen’s sternly perceptive private investigator, who was employed by Charles’ father and is determined to find out who was responsible for his slaying, a young architect (Jakob Campbell) who works with Guy, and a friend of Guy (Robert Comber) who tries to free him from despondency with the promise of a splendid project.

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