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Mar 30, 2023, 16:19
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Through April 2
AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS Shea’s 710 Theatre/All for One Productions

By Augustine Warner

If you go to the theater fairly often, you might know the plot and the ending of a play on stage.
It’s a “goodnight, sweet prince” moment.
That’s a very extreme example, although I have seen that play more times than I can count, along with “I Hate Hamlet.”
However, that same familiarity extends far across the theater.
For example, a very well-done production of Ken Ludwig’s “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express,” from that hit parade of local theaters, All for One Productions.
Sitting in a packed house, it was clear many of those in the audience were familiar with the story from Dame Agatha.
It’s been movies and TV shows and TV series, along with being a perennial seller in the book stores.
What it requires is a strong cast, especially the actor who plays Hercule Poirot, the stereotyped exponent of thought from “the little grey cells.”
Here, it’s Christian Brandjes, who skips some of the folderol often used to play the Belgian detective.
He makes the production work,
The story of the stalled train ride and mystery violence takes place on a high-tech sprawling set from Lynne Koscielniak, scene after scene swirling into view on the stage turntable.
The speed of the revolutions keep the story going, so it never slows down.
This is the old Orient Express, which once ran from Istanbul and the Golden Horn to Paris, a fast and luxurious trip for the rich, spies and the varied nobility of Europe.
This time, the train stalls in a blizzard not far from Belgrade in the old Yugoslavia and there is death.
Poirot is on board, rushing to help British police, three-days away.
He’s hauled into probing this murder in the first-class car by a Wagon Lits executive he’s friendly with, who fears a Yugoslavian investigation.
That’s Monsieur Bouc (Gregory Gjurich), with a heavy French accent and a Francais bio in the program.
Help is not on the way to dig out the train and bring locals.
The identity of the victim is solved very rapidly, making the investigation more difficult because he’s a man with lots and lots of enemies.
The passengers aren’t anxious to help and, seemingly, nor is the conductor, the Chef de Train (Ben Michael Moran.)
For Poirot, the clues are all there and he pulls them together for Christie’s inventive solution.
Director Kyle LoConti does a great job in the structural aspect, you know, getting everyone on and off at the right times.
She’s even better working with the cast members, pushing them to the edge of stereotypes, but never over the edge, particularly with Brandjes’ Poirot, with all the detective’s quirks.
There’s also Gjurich, Moran, Lisa Ludwig and Gabriella Jean McKinley.
“Orient Express” is one of Christie’s most deft works and Ludwig makes good use of the plot and the solution.
Now, the Metro Rail is more than a block away from the former Studio Arena in the Theatre District but it’s very valuable to take the express to see “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.”

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