Written by Patrick Chavis
Murder, murder, and more murder — who knows the subject better than the queen of the murder mystery herself, Agatha Christie. In her lifetime Christie wrote over 50 different novels, mostly focusing on a genre she mastered, the murder mystery. Christie’s stories are all different and unique, but one thing they have in common is a mysterious death and a group of people that all seem to look guilty. This trope is consistent in Stages Theatre presents Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile. While the climax and twist ending in this production give a much-needed boost of energy to the show, the buildup in the first act lacks a kick and feels almost irrelevant after watching the whole story play through.
Murder on the Nile is set on a river cruise in Egypt. Nine characters get on the boat with different reasons for being there and bring their personal dramas aboard the ship. When the drama unfolds someone is murdered, and the character Canon Pennefather, a priest played by Lawrence Ingalls, investigates before the cops arrive.
We know there will be a murder before we even sit down to watch the show because it’s in the title. So right from the beginning, the audience is like a fly on the wall as we watch each passenger get on the ship. They have conversations, and during the conversations, we learn more about who they are and their motivations for being on the ship. Each character’s background is unique and by the end of the play, all of the characters are covered.
The set-up :
What struck me the most about this production (and I think it was much clearer because of the obvious talent on the stage) is that the first act drags and the set up placing the audience into the Egyptian atmosphere isn’t executed very well. Egypt is an important character in this play, but the focus on character drama almost makes this part of the show useless. The play could easily be called Murder in the Restaurant without the intrigue of the locale. With these types of stories, the set-up is so crucial. To be fair, it’s also one of the most difficult aspects of a show to pull off. Often what distinguishes a well-thought out production is the time a director takes to make the set up unique while you’re learning about these characters and the audience is slowly or quickly being immersed into the play/story.
The play follows the first act with a stronger second.
Jessica Taylor Gable who plays Jacqueline de Severac is one of the most engaging actors in this play. Gable provides a strong performance in each scene. The back and forth between Gable and Lawrence Ingalls (Cannon Pennefather) creates one of the more interesting dynamics in the entire play. Ingalls’ performance of Pennefather is fantastic and well executed. Jason Cook who plays Simon Mostyn also had a solid performance with energy and sense of purpose in each interaction he has on stage.
January 18th – February 10, 2019