Backstage Review—Murder On The Orient Express

Adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig from the novel by Agatha Christie

~By Norm Robins~

~Photos by Zen Media~

Agatha Christie made murder respectable. She took it out of the back alley and put it into the parlor where it belongs. Okay, so in this outstanding whodunit she put it into the parlor car and the sleeping coach. Who indeed killed Samuel Ratchett, a villain most foul, with eight stab wounds? Doesn’t this seem like overkill—literally? Ratchett is really sleazebag Bruno Cassetti who murdered the 5-year-old American heiress Daisy Armstrong. With a trainful of suspects, 8 of them, each with an alibi, only famed detective Hercule Poirot, who appears in 33 of Christie’s novels, has the chops to figure it out.

The Orient Express travels from Paris to Istanbul and back. It is still running. These days the excursion takes 6 days and costs a mere $42,000. Clearly, this was and still is one classy train ride. Even in Agatha Christie’s day (1890 -1976) this train was not for plebians.

The Play’s Orient Express going from Istanbul to Paris is halted after an avalanche. Ratchett is killed. Help is slowly on the way to extricate the train from the snow allowing Poirot time to interview all 8 of the passengers and conductor, to ponder their stories, and to acquire clues. Christie loved littering clues here, there, and the other place. A handkerchief for example with the monogram H on it. Is it H in the Latin alphabet like

Helen or H in the Cyrillic alphabet as in Natalia (or Lenin, for that matter)? What does it mean that some stab wounds were delivered by a strong hand and some by a weak hand, some by a left hand and some by a right hand? Hmmmmmm.

This is a wonderfully acted, directed, and staged play full of verve and energy. It is an ensemble piece with powerful performances delivered by everyone and especially by Scott Hernandez as Poirot who never disappoints.

Reno Little Theater is not so little. The stage is roughly 50 ft. long. There is a parlor car on the left, an open grate platform in the middle suitable for entering and exiting the train and probably for delivering whistle-stop campaign speeches, and a sleeping car on the right. The set design and lighting are brilliant. The set is comprised of brushed steel frames with curtains and pressboard. It is believable that this is really a train. Whistles and smoke complete the illusion.

There is a surprise ending and a touching one that is performed beautifully by Hernandez. Let’s just say one would not expect this sort of noblesse oblige in a whodunit.

This is a must-see play, and apparently their audience knows that. The play sold out so they added 5 more performances to accommodate more theatergoers. That should not be enough given how well this play is performed.

Cast:

Hercule Poirot…………………………Scott Hernandez

Samuel Ratchett…………………..….Bryce Keil

Helen Hubbard…..……………………Moira Bengochea

Monsieur Bouc………….…………….Jeff Chamberlin

Head Waiter……………………………Luis Galvez

Princess Dragonmiroff……………….Evonne Kezios

Countess Andrenyi……………………Deanna Podstawa

Greta Ohlsson…………………………Libby Bakke

Colonel Arbuthnot…………………….Calder Tempel

Mary Debenham………………………Madeline Bennett

Michel………………………….……….Scott Sarni

Hector McQueen………………………Brian Ault

Directed by Melissa Taylor

Murder on the Orient Express opens Friday, January 24th at the Reno Little Theater, 147 E. Pueblo St., Reno. For ticket information go to www.renolittletheater.org or call 775-813-8900.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept that my given data and my IP address is sent to a server in the USA only for the purpose of spam prevention through the Akismet program.More information on Akismet and GDPR.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: