Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Daniella Litvak 

Agatha Christie is the “Queen of Crime.”  Author of  sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections, only the Bible and Shakespeare outsell her.  She is the only woman dramatist to have three plays running simultaneously in West End and the playwright of the world’s longest running play —The Mousetrap.  Please don’t worry, I am not about to spoil the ending of The Mousetrap because the Agatha Christie mystery (which Leslie Darbon adapted for the stage) I’ve investigated at Newport Theatre Arts Center is A Murder Is Announced.         

It was just another Friday morning in the small, English village of Chipping Cleghorn.  Sure it’s Friday the 13th, but that does not perturb Letitia Blacklock (Harriet Whitmyer). She is more concerned about keeping the peace among the menagerie of people staying at her house: her young cousins Julia (Hayley Jackson) and Patrick (Jeff Budner), her dear but getting senile friend Bunny (Yvonne Robertson), boarder Phillipa (Lucy Abel), and Mitzi (Carla Naragon) the Hungarian cook.  Things get strange when Bunny reads an odd newspaper advertisement announcing there will be a murder at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Letitia’s house!  Who would do such a thing and why?  It’s going to be up to Inspector Craddock (Floyd Harden) and Miss Marple (Judy Jones) —one of Christie’s most beloved characters who was featured in twelve novels and twenty short stories —to figure it out.        

As far as murder mysteries go, A Murder Is Announced is pretty good.  The plotting is clear.  The twists are surprising without feeling like they came out of nowhere.  And the resolution is satisfying.  However, many of the characters are under developed.  Some are under utilized.  Miss Marple becomes more interesting after the fact since she reappears in many other stories and is an inspiration for other amateur detective characters, but the other characters do not have that advantage, which makes it harder to keep them in your thoughts after the curtain call. 

Overall the entire cast delivers solid performances.  Everyone is enjoyable to watch.  Even though her character —Mitzi —straddles the line between character and caricature, Carla Naragon’s firecracker presence is a welcome addition onstage.  Floyd Harden was another stand out performer.  It was fun watching him be the know-it-all, put upon inspector one moment and even more fun to see him completely caught off guard when he realizes Miss Marple is ahead him.    

A Murder Is Announced is comfortable viewing, which is its blessing and curse.  I mentioned earlier the story had surprising twists but the actual plot twists are not new and inventive in themselves.  Considering Agatha Christie’s widespread influence on the genre this is expected, but it also lessens the thrill factor. While the costuming and set design were appropriate, I wish some bolder choices were made in those departments because it could have been an opportunity to add excitement and spectacle without straying away from the text. While I admire the entire production from a technical standpoint and enjoyed watching it, the show needed something more to push it into the extraordinary category.

Jan 27 – Feb 26

Above Average 

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Story7
Acting8.5
Set & Design7.5
Costumes8
Entertainment8
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Sidenote: Information about Agatha Christie was found at http://www.agathachristie.com

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