An ambitious and complex show, Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced, first published in 1950, was the first mystery of Christie’s to be brought to the stage. The Granite Theatre took on the task of making the longer than usual show, with a relatively large cast of 12 actors, palatable for a modern audience.
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They were successful in creating a fine night of theatrical intrigue and suspense. The beautiful set design and suitable costumes allow the actors to fully engage in their characters, most nobly taking on the inherent accents and diction of what is described as “Agatha Christie time” in the show’s program.
With such a large cast (compared to the usual four to eight actors in most of the shows I’ve seen at Granite) and several overlapping storylines of intrigue, seeming double-crosses and alas, murder (Mur-der!), I got a bit lost in the multi-layered story. Just as one suspenseful element is revealed, another one comes along to take its place or build upon what was previously established.
Although I most often prefer to attend live theatre “cold” (without reading the play in advance of seeing the performance), with this play I would advise to go ahead and read the whole script first or at least become familiar with the story before attending for maximum understanding and enjoyment of the performance.
About the title and premise of the show, a notice appears in the paper of Chipping Cleghorn: ‘A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks, at 6.30 pm. Friends accept this, the only intimation.’
This surprises Letitia Blacklock, owner of Little Paddocks. Miss Blacklock takes it in stride and prepares for guests that evening. The villagers are intrigued by the notice, and several of them appear with awkward reasons but definite interest. As the clock strikes 6.30 p.m., the lights go out and a door swings open, revealing a man with a blinding torch.”
Without giving away too much after that, what happens next is the classic case of “Whodunit, howdunit , and whydunit?” complete with witty back and forth dialogues, running jokes, and many exceptional performances including those by Heather Carey as a self taught “sleuth” in training and Michelle Mania as Letitia Blacklock, the center of much of the evening’s murderous intrigue.
Diana Blanda as Dora Bunner (known affectionately as “Bunny”), from my perspective, made the most of her character, or perhaps her character, as written, just had the most “fun moments” to play with. In any event, Ms. Blanda earns big laughs with her comedic timing and likability, in the very human and hilarious role of Bunny, a bold woman so progressive she’s taken on the task of placing a personal ad in the local paper, complete with a heightened appreciation for herself.
An intimate relationship that initially seems morally unappetizing in nature between Steph Rodger’s Julia Simmons character and Paul DiSilvestro’s portrayal of her “brother” Patrick leads down another pivotal rabbit hole as the levels of intrigue from Christie pile on. Perhaps this play is loaded with a bit too many angles and aha! revelations for my own personal liking, but the show was well received with seeming delight of the nearly packed house on the opening weekend Saturday night performance.
Kudos to the fine direction from John Cillino and production from David Jepson and associates such as this show’s Production Stage Manager Linda Shea and Granite’s Assistant Art Director Beth Jepson for continuing to challenge themselves. Kudos the Westerly audience for appreciating theater in our age of YouTube and the daily distractions of “device technology.”
Also of note is that Mr. Jepson’s bearded brother Michael Jepson takes on the formidable role of Inspector Craddick in this play, and the resemblance between the two is so striking you’d swear they were twins since birth or soon after!
A Murder is Announced plays through September 30.
For Agatha Christie fans, please note a special Agatha Christie event is scheduled at Granite Theatre on Saturday, September 15, at 6 p.m. Click here for more information about an evening of Agatha.
For advance ticket purchases to the show visit: https://www.granitetheatre.com/productions-new/193-a-murder-is-announced