Murder on the Orient Express – Review by Tom Nissley

A magnificent jewel-box adaptation of Agatha Christies famous mystery novel, adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig, and directed by Emily Mann, is playing at Hartford Stage. To experience it is to enjoy all over again the first delights of being with live theater – actors, amazingly cast, a story – beautifully told, a magical set (Beowulf Boritt) and terrific lighting (Ken Billington) and great sound design (Darron L West) and stunning costumes (William Ivey Long). In a word: perfection. If you can possibly arrange to see this production, do it. Pure entertainment, the way it ought to be done.

So, what’s the drift of the story line? Just an hour or so before train time, several passengers are found in a restaurant in Istanbul, near the station. Among them is Hercule Poirot, the famous detective (David Pittu), who has suddenly been notified that he must cut short a vacation and return to London. Fortunately, an old friend, Monsieur Bouc (Evan Zes), runs the railway, and helps Poirot to find space on what is reported to be a crowded train. Before the train leaves, a boorish ‘ugly American’ named Ratchett (Ian Bedford) attempts to hire Poirot to investigate threatening letters sent to him, but Poirot refuses. During the first night of travel, the train is stopped by great snow drifts in Yugoslavia. In the morning it is discovered that Ratchett has been murdered. The rest of the play involves Poirot interviewing other passengers and discovering how the murder was committed.

It would be unfair to you to tell more, but it is accurate to describe the production as an Ensemble (i.e. all the actors working together), and in this case, you can apply that word to every aspect of this wonderful show. The dialogue between Poirot and the other passengers inspects not only their suitcases and personal histories, but also the implications of home-grown justice versus strict adherence to judicial process and respect for the law.

Cast members who were a particular delight to encounter included Ian Bedford (Colonel Arbuthnot); Veanne Cox, who was an astounding Princess Dragomiroff; Maboud Ebrahimzadeh (Michel); Julie Halston (Helen Hubbard); and Leigh Ann Larkin (Countess Andrenyi).

Get tickets and information (ASAP) at www.hartfordstage.org or by calling 860-527-5151. Don’t miss it!

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre posted Feb. 25, 2018

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