Northlight Theatre. By Agatha Christie. Directed by Jonathan Berry. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 15mins; one intermission.
Theater review by Kris Vire
Agatha Christie's stage mystery is famed for its longevity: It opened on the West End in 1952 and never closed, still running today nearly 40 years after the author's death. In Northlight's cracking new staging, directed by Jonathan Berry, you can easily see how well the play holds up.
Christie's setup leans heavily on convenient coincidences, particularly in the particular collection of guests who show up for the first weekend of operation of Monkswell Manor, an inn operated by inexperienced keepers—Mollie (Cora Vander Broek), who inherited the old house, and her husband Giles (Keith Neagle)—and the snowstorm that immediately cuts them off from the outside world. The radio is buzzing with news of a woman murdered in London, and while no one else can get in or out, an intrepid police sergeant (Greg Matthew Anderson) shows up on skis, telling the guests one of them may be next—because one of them is the murderer.
Berry manages the mood expertly, achieving harmony between the play's comic notes (it's much funnier than I remembered) and the real menace requisite for suspense. From the red herrings to the famous twist-ending reveal, it's all perfectly paced and marked by beautiful design elements: Jack Magaw's handsomely appointed set is as finely detailed as Izumi Inaba's period costumes.
And the cast is so on point it's difficult to single anyone out: Joey deBettencourt is deliciously weird as the eccentric young architecture fan, Christopher Wren; Lindsey Pearlman strides her pantsuited way across the stage with delightful verve as Miss Casewell, for whom the 1950s euphemism might be mannish. Joe Dempsey earns enormous laughs as Mr. Paravicini, the flamboyant last-minute mystery guest. The whole thing runs like clockwork. Like the one in London, this production could easily keep ticking.