Wednesday, March 7, 2018

CT Theater Review: Murder on the Orient Express -- Hartford Stage

David Pittu. Photo: T. Chalres Erickson
Julie Halston. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Murder on the Orient Express
Adapted by Ken Ludwig, based on the novel by Agatha Christie
Directed by Emily Mann
Hartford Stage
Extended through March 25

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The McCarter Theatre's production of the who-done-it. David Pittu stars as Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who tries to solve the murder of a mysterious Mr. Ratchett  (Ian Bedford) aboard the Orient Express. There's no shortage of suspects. Who could it be?

  • Princess Dragomiroff (an engaging Veanne Cox)
  • Col. Abruthnot (Ian Bedford)
  • Helen Hubbard (a riotous Julie Halston), who might have seen the murderer
  • Countess Andrenyi (Leigh Ann Larkin)
  • Michel (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), the train's conductor
  • governess Mary Debenham (Susannah Hoffman)
  • an army officer (Charles Paul Mihaliak)
  • Hector MacQueen (Juha Sorola), Ratchett's personal secretary
  • Greta Ohlsson (Samantha Steinmetz)
  • Monsieur Bouc (Evan Zes), a friend of Poirot's and owner of the railroad
And what is the connection between the murder and the kidnapping/murder of little Daisy Armstrong (Jordyn Elizabeth Schmidt of Glastonbury) some years before? 

What Are the Highlights?
Halston, with her comedic charms in high gear, finds ways to keep us laughing throughout as usual. She's a theater gem.
Beowulf Boritt's deco train set is the other star of the show. It sparkles and moves and provides visual stimulation for the various compartments on the train.

What Are the Lowlights?
This Christie story is slow moving and I realized somewhere in the middle of attending the show that I never had made it through the book (first published in 1934) or the film versions based on it. I had grown bored and given up each time. Ludwig adds some humor, but my interest still waned during the two hours with intermission (it felt longer, but not sure what Director Emily Mann could have done about it). The upside was that I finally found out who done it. And I didn't correctly guess ahead of time like I usually do in murder mysteries, so that says something for the plot after all.

More information:
Murder on the Orient Express chugs along at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford through March 25. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm. Audio Described Performance—Saturday, March 10 at 2 pm, Tickets are $18-$95:; 860-527-5151.

Additional credits:
Costume Designer William Ivey Long; Lighting Designer Ken Billington; Sound Designer Darron L. West; Fight Consultant Greg Webster; Dialect Coach Thom Jones

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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