This review of Dame Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
A Murder Is Announced
Written by Dame Agatha Christie
Adapted for the stage by Leslie Darbon
Directed by Marian Waller
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York
A Murder Is Announced, a work of detective fiction written by Agatha Christie first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club in June 1950, was adapted for the stage in 1977 by Leslie Darbon. The play was first presented at the Theatre Royal in Brighton, and then opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in London on September 21, 1977. The book and play feature Miss Jane Marple, Agatha Christie's famous amateur fictional detective, who lurks about the crime scene, acts as the village busybody, and ultimately finds clues that help the inspector discover who the real criminals are. The play is set in an early Victorian house named Little Paddocks in Chipping Cleghorn and begins with the following announcement that was published in the Gazette, the local paper: "A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 13th, at Little Paddocks, at 6:30 p.m. Friends accept this, the only intimation."
Some villagers are intrigued by this notice and several of them appear expecting what they hope is just a "silly English joke." As the clock strikes 6:30 p.m., the lights go out, a door swings open, and a man with a heavy accent demands they "Stick 'em up!". Most of the guests follow his order thinking this is all just part of the game, but then gun shots are fired and Rudi Scherz, who had asked Letitia Blacklock, the owner of Little Paddocks, for money just a few days prior, is found dead, and Ms. Blacklock, is herself injured. While investigating what appears to be an attempt on the life of Letitia, it is revealed she once worked for Randall Goedler, a successful financier, who died leaving his entire estate to his wife Belle. Belle is not well and when she passes, the fortune will go to Letitia, unless she dies first, in which case all the money will go to Pip and Emma, children of Randall's estranged sister Sonia. No one knows where these two are, much less what they look like. When Dora Bunner (Bunny), Letitia's childhood friend, borrows aspirin from a bottle on Letitia's bed table and herself dies, the Inspector and others are even more convinced Letitia is the murder target.
There is no lack of possible suspects or clues to follow but this play will keep you guessing right up to the very end. There are three "cousins" staying with Letitia; Phillipa Haymes, a single mom; and Julia & Patrick Simmons, allegedly siblings who came to stay with their aunt for a few weeks. There is also Mitzi, a paranoid cook with a foreign accent; Edmund Swettenham, a cynical, poor, young writer who appears to have something going on with Phillipa; and Mrs. Swettenham, his doting mother. There are missing photographs, switched lamps, frayed cords, dead flowers, oiled hinges, a moved table, a usually unopened door, a pair of scissors, and the revelation that Letitia had a sister named Charlotte, who died in Switzerland. Did Rudi Scherz work in Switzerland? The Swettenham's also appear to be from a town near the Swiss border? Are they all involved somehow? Also, why was Bunny calling Mitzi by the name Millie, and why was she sometimes calling Letitia by the nickname Lotti, instead of Lettie? Are Julia and Patrick really brother and sister? Is Phillipa a cousin at all? Does Edmund have a secret motive in being interested in Phillipa? And before you think you figured it all out, are you sure Bunny was really Letitia's childhood friend and are you certain that Pip is even a woman?
A Murder Is Announced features a very talented ensemble cast and is great fun! Gail Merzer Behrens was very convincing as Letitia Blacklock, and Sheila Sheffield more than held her own as Miss Jane Marple. W. Gordon Innes commanded the respect he deserved as Inspector Dermot Craddock, and Rosemary Innes was able to accurately portray Dora Bunner (Bunny) as a sympathetic friend who was suffering from the onset of dementia. The remaining cast members, all who made their own significant contribution to the success of this production included Nicole Intravia as Julia Simmons, Scott McIntyre as Patrick Simmons, Ginger Dalton as Mitzi, Marteena Morano as Phillipa Haymes, Alex Rich as Edmund Swettenham, Pamela Kern as Mrs. Swettenham, and George Spelvin as Rudi Scherz.
This play will command your attention and keep you interested until all is revealed. The cast clearly enjoyed performing it and the audience paid keen attention to all the clues, suspects and possible motives of the various characters. While you might question why some characters acted as they did, including why someone would go along with placing the murder announcement in the paper in the first place, you will, nevertheless, enjoy the ride! A Murder Is Announced is intellectually stimulating and watching it sure beats feeding the ducks!
You can see A Murder Is Announced on Friday, November 20th at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, November 21st at 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday, November 22nd at 2:30 p.m. at Studio Theatre Long Island. Tickets cost $25.00. Reserve your tickets by calling 631-226-8400 or by visiting Studio Theatre Long Island's website at http://www.studiotheatreli.com/