There are lots of new faces in the Live Theatre Workshop production of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Nile.” The results are mixed. Veteran thespian Michael Woodson holds everything together as the redoubtable Canon Pennefeather, a man of the cloth who believes it is important not to lose the common touch.
Pennefeather is the one who would be Hercule Poirot if Agatha Christie was writing one of those whodunits. In fact, she wrote a movie version of this play and it did star the good Inspector Poirot.
Lauren DeVille makes her LTW debut with a nice presence in the smaller though no less important role of Kay Mostyn, a socialite whose death becomes the murder in the title. But this murder mystery is well into the second act before such terminal mayhem arrives.
Doing nicely in character roles with some intriguing accents are Arya Arabshahi as Dr. Bessner and Eric Schumacher as the humorless communist activist known as Smith.
In a cast of 12, that’s a pretty good average. Delani Cody the director is to be applauded for welcoming so many fresh performers to the stage. Though with such a large number of actors on hand, just directing traffic across LTW’s stage-in-the-round is a challenge. Opening night jitters may have played a part, too, in making the production feel like it needed about two more weeks of rehearsal.
Christie’s idea was to introduce a boatload of eccentric personalities tossed together on a tramp steamer cruising up the Nile. She throws in some politics of the period – between the two World Wars – then adds a healthy pinch of class rivalries to create what has become one of her most popular plays.
The twist is a clever one, built out of logic and a squeeze of opportunity. Jealousy is in there, too. So is greed. After a while, it feels like watching one of those poker matches on cable TV.
Will love trump anger? Or will anger plus determination trump justice? Politics becomes the wild card when Smith begins preaching about the sanctity of work and the glory of the workingman.
Providing the comedy relief to lighten the proceedings is MaryLou Duckworth as the constantly complaining old maid Miss Ffoloit-Ffoulkes. Nothing is ever fresh enough, clean enough, quiet enough or safe enough to please her. Duckworth gets her laughs and has a great time doing it.
Also bringing some humor and making a strong impression in a very small part is Lin Watts as the eager bead-seller with no name. She is the peddler who accosts travelers of every sort, trying to sell them something. Anything. When the pompous Canon says he isn’t interested in buying any pictures of the saints, this entrepreneurial bead merchant offers to sell him pictures of a more revealing sort.
As for the plot, it all begins with Simon Mostyn (Chris Moseley), an ambitious young man of no means whatsoever who dumps his longtime girlfriend Jaqueline (Meg Patno) to quickly marry wealthy Kay Mostyn. This sudden change of heart sent Jaqueline spiraling into a deep depression. She started stalking Simon and Kay around the world. Now Jaqueline’s on their boat ride.
IF YOU GO
What: Live Theatre Workshop presents “Murder on the Nile” by Agatha Christie
When: Through Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays
Where: 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Price: $14 to $17
Info: 327-4242, www.livetheatreworkshop.org