Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? That is the premise of Theater Fairfield’s latest production, Hugh Whitemore’s “Pack of Lies.” The play tells the true story of an English family, as one of the rooms in their house is used as a vantage point to spy on a suspected Soviet spy.
The Jackson family feels compelled to help their nation defend itself from espionage, but each member of the family declares different attitudes toward the British agents in their house. Bob Jackson (Sean Larson ‘18) wants the agents to do their jobs and capture the spy. Barbara Jackson (Shannon Kelley ‘19) carries an uneasy feeling from the start, but that develops into full-fledged anxiety about lying to her friends and daughter about the true significance of the agents. Their daughter Julie (Christine Colasacco ‘18) treats it as an exciting adventure, much to her mother’s chagrin.
The Jackson family is often visited by the mysterious Agent Stewart (Brendan McNamara ‘17), but he doesn’t tell the family much in the beginning as to why he wants to use their home as his base of operations. The Jacksons have to keep the secret from their neighbors and best friends Helen (Mackenna Wysocki ‘18) and Peter Kroger (Liam Cahill ‘18), whom Stewart believes to be somewhat involved with the spy he is trying to track. Stewart stations two agents in the house as lookouts, Thelma (Martha Hegley ‘20) and Sally (Erin Miller ‘18).
The production moved the plot along through simple dialogue between characters. Additionally, there were times when certain characters delivered monologues that better expressed the inner workings of their minds than the dialogue alone. The monologues worked the most for Peter, since he didn’t have many lines in general. However, when he did speak, he exhibited such an ingenious diction that deserved more dialogue.
Most of the cast had to use British accents to flesh out their characters. They worked with Dr. Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. Chair in Catholic Studies & Professor of Religious Studies, to develop their accents. Although all of the accents were executed well, Hegley’s accent was the best. It was a break from the characters’ generally British accents, instead a Yorkshire, north of England, accent, as Hegley described it.
Kelley carried much of the emotional weight of the production and her acting made the audience connect emotionally with the character of Barbara. The range in her acting was exceptional, going from hysterically crying one moment to expressing anger the next. Helen had the biggest personality of any character I have ever seen. Wysocki helped make the character incredibly personable and whenever Helen entered a scene, the audience could expect a laugh. Wysocki’s boisterous voice along with the character’s charisma combined to make a memorable performance.
Stewart was perfectly exemplified as the slimy, shady government agent. McNamara’s portrayal of the character added to the severity of the situation and because of Stewart’s actions and deceit, the audience is able to connect even further with Barbara’s turmoil over the spying.
Kelley said that opening night went really well. She described that one of the hardest parts of preparing for her role was the dialect training and “emotionally connecting with the text. When first reading the script, it’s just words on a page, but it took a lot of effort in the beginning to connect with Barbara.”
McNamara said that the play was “fun to do with this group. Each night is totally different with them. The cast and crew arrived around 90 minutes prior to the show to prepare for the performance, with each actor having their own method of preparation. The cast researched the case and history of the play, and also watched period films.”
“Pack of Lies” was an enjoyable performance that kept the audience members on the edge of their seats, anxiously awaiting the fates of the characters.