By Katie Benfield
Is everything as it appears on the surface? Is there a different meaning, a deeper meaning, to the things that have been said or done?
These are the types of questions that audience members will be asking as they watch Ensemble Stage’s third production in its summer season at the Historic Banner Elk School. Switzerland, written by Joanna Murray-Smith, follows Patricia Highsmith, author of numerous bestsellers on the New York Times Bestseller list including The Talented Mr. Ripley, as she moves to Switzerland to escape the fame that her success has burdened her with.
Historically, Patricia Highsmith wasn’t the most likable person in the world — with the mouth of a sailor, a concerning collection of knives and guns, the company of her cat and cigarettes, Highsmith is the grande dame of crime literature and she is ready to call it quits.
The production follows this story line as a publisher confronts Highsmith in her isolated home, asking her to write another novel that involves her most famous character — who just so happens to be a psychopathic killer — and the play unfolds as her love of fictional murders becomes a dangerous reality.
“This play is completely different than the other ones that we’ve done so far. It’s a psychological thriller,” Gary Smith, Artistic Director of Ensemble Stage, said. “It’s got lots of twists and turns and keeps the audience members guessing, thinking, analyzing and seeing if what is said and done is casual or if it really means something more.”
According to Smith, psychological thrillers are a thrill to do for Ensemble Stage because they are so fun to perform and plan and because, during intermission, it’s always entertaining to come out and see how the audience is trying to solve the mystery.
However, the chances of audience members figuring this play out are little to none, as the lead actress, Linda Clark, is an incredible talent on the stage that will blow the minds of the audience and continue to string them along through every surprise turn.
“Linda Clark is an incredibly talented, professional actress from the Charlotte-Greensboro area,” Smith said, “and she is amazing and brings everything up to a level that we are all really excited about. We can’t wait to see the outcome.”
Clark is portraying 65-year-old Patricia Highsmith in the exact way that Highsmith was — a lady who wasn’t too kind and was pretty difficult to like and get along with.
“Highsmith was a really unique woman. She was as far away from a genteel woman that you could ever meet,” Smith said, “with the mouth of a sailor.”
Smith warned that this production contains strong language and adult themes. He cautioned that if you are someone who is sensitive to strong language, this may not be the right performance for you to attend; however, if one is able to look past the language and see the play for the fine piece of theatre is, you will have a great time.
“It’s not language that people have never heard before; it’s just rare to hear it from a 65-year-old woman,” Smith said, “but I’m counting on people to not worry so much about the language but to listen to the story and see the incredible acting going on on that stage.”
Regardless of language, Smith is confident in saying that everyone who attends the play with an open mind — and a mind ready to analyze and become immersed in the world that Murray-Smith created around Patricia Highsmith’s actual existence — will have an amazing time and will leave the theatre shocked and stunned at the unexpected twists, turns and ending.
Switzerland begins showing on July 29 at 7:30 p.m. and continues until Aug. 6.
You can purchase tickets online here.
Tickets are $22 for adult, $20 for military/student and $11 for children 16 and under.
For more information, call Ensemble Stage at 828-414-1844 or visit the website.