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arts & leisure

Agatha Christie’s “A Murder is Announced” stumps the audience at The Forestburgh Playhouse

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By Jonathan Fox
June 13, 2014

Spoiler alert: The butler did it. Calm down… just kidding! It would be unkind to give away the ending of the murder mystery now playing at the Forestburgh Playhouse, and since it’s a whodunit as only Agatha Christie can write, even the best amateur sleuth will have a hard time unraveling the labyrinth of clues doled out during this two-act frothy English confection that is presented with the style and verve that Christie deserves. Penned by the author of 66 crime novels, Christie’s “Murder” might be one of her lesser known works, which is in our favor, and the story was unknown to me, which kept me guessing along with the packed house in Forestburgh the other night as the curtain went up on the first offering of the season at the playhouse.

Christie holds the Guinness World Record for being the best-selling novelist of all time, and her play “Mousetrap” still stands as the longest running play. Ever. Little wonder then, that her plays are performed all over the world and that her fan base continues to grow with each new generation. Whether one is an ardent fan or new to the genre, this production is sure to please… with a more-than-able cast of colorful characters. Under the deft guidance of director Trent Blanton, the company of actors hits the stage running with great pacing and fully realized characterization, making each role stand out, while supporting the others throughout. While truly an ensemble piece, this quick-witted puzzler has some stand-out performances, and virtually none that disappoint. Marissa Girgus, (Julia) Aaron Miller (Patrick) and Ellen Pavloff (Bunny) really get the ball running with their well-drawn interpretations of the extended family of matriarch Leticia Blacklock, played with humorous, mysterious intensity by the extremely talented Sandy York, who captured my attention from her first line and held me firmly in her grasp until the curtain fell. Assisted by the comic genius of the hilarious Rebecca Simon, (Mitzi) York literally holds court over the rest of the cast, all of whom were at the top of their game. Chiara Trentalange, Sandy Stalter, Tommy Betz, Hunter Brown and Kyle Kemph supported York and company with panache, while I breathlessly waited for one of Christie’s most beloved characters to make her way onto the stage—Miss Marple. Portrayed by a myriad of famous actresses over the years, Miss Marple is a lot to live up to and actress Carolann Page won me over instantly with her own brand of quirky, lovable, faux-befuddled antics that have made the character so popular over the years.