In post-war England, in the town of Chipping Cleghorn, a most precarious stage has been set in a quiet country house where a murder is plotted and advertised in the local paper. What seems like a completely tasteless joke attracts curious acquaintances and delivers its promised death under mysterious circumstances. This performance of “A Murder is Announced,” written by Leslie Darbon and produced by Artistic Synergy of Baltimore, is based on the 1950 Agatha Christie novel of the same title. Christie’s stories are filled with peculiar characters and one can expect nothing less from this play running at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Baltimore from now until May 5th. It is a classic Who done It filled with lies, secrets and odd characters posing as normal, which was Christie’s signature style.
Overall, this performance was entertaining and easy to follow.
What truly sells this story are the characters and their individual roles in the undercurrent leitmotif, which comes to light gradually and finishes with a shocking twist. Watching the story unfold, I caught myself fixating on one character after another –thinking I had figured out the real killer. Afterward, I slapped myself because it was Agatha Christie, after all, and she was a master of keeping her audiences guessing. Of course, this play gets a lot of help from some very talented actors. Ashley Gerhardt, for example, plays Miss Marple (a reoccurring character in Christie’s work). Miss Marple is an amateur detective of sorts but often comes off as a zealous nosey neighbor. Gerhardt is a gifted stage actor and delivers some canny and humorous lines to lighten an otherwise dreadful scenario.
I was also impressed with Jim Fitzpatrick’s portrayal of the no-nonsense Inspector Craddock. His stiff, commanding demeanor in the open interrogation scenes is as amusing as it is intriguing. His voice and mannerism are quite fitting for this role. Mel Tillery plays the abrasive and paranoid housekeeper Mitzi, who always comes in at the most opportune times throughout the play. Tillery delivers some quirky, accented lines that made me chuckle at times, and other times not so much. Donna Zubrowski plays the forgetful and kooky Dora Bunner. Finally, I loved Catherine Shinaberry as the moody screamer Letitia Blacklock. Never let the mild manners fool you.
I have to say the stage set was very humble for being a home in the English countryside, but I think the lighting helped the scenery in some ways, so much credit to Daniel DeJong. Subtlety is very key in these types of performances, and sound designer Bill Bisbee clearly understands this. Catherine Shinaberry also gets a nod for the attire, hair and make-up. Everyone’s “look” was appropriate.
Overall, this performance was entertaining and easy to follow. The cast and crew deliver a fun and light murder mystery in a modest venue.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.
“A Murder is Announced” runs through May 5, 2019. You can find show times and ticket information by clicking here.