Theater: The Hartford Stage
Play: Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express
Adapted for the Stage: Ken Ludwig
Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman
Come ride a little train that is rolling down the track to the Stage – Hartford Stage that is!
Hmmm- and what a train it is! A train of intrigue, mystery and murder. Yes – “Meurtre dans le train” – so bring along your sense of adventure, your skills of deduction, your thrill of the hunt and chase as you join “the” Belgium detective, (not French) Hercule Poirot, and your fellow audience members in solving “The Murder on the Orient Express”.
Hartford Stage presents the McCarter Theater Center Production of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”, adapted for the stage by Playwright Ken Ludwig, and directed by Emily Mann. This steaming, fast paced, loco-motive of a mystery is like no other currently seen live on stage. Christie’s most famous “incident de meurtre” is a fast paced, humor laced, electrifying thrill ride- get your ticket and get on board for we are pulling away from the tracks – and the game of deduction is afoot.
“En voiture, Monsieur et Madame” – Time to Board – Get your passports ready, stamped and at hand. It’s winter of 1935, and we are boarding the luxurious Orient Express from Istanbul, Turkey to London. Our passengers? – Noel Coward once wrote “Why do the wrong people travel, travel, travel, When the right people stay back home? What compulsion compels them and who the hell tells them to drag their cans to Zanzibar…” In this case it’s Murder! The McGuffin that sets everything in motion- – the kidnapping and murder of a small child – similar to the Charles Lindbergh Jr. kidnapping in 1932. Our “wrong people”, stranded on a snow stuck train, include: Ratchett aka Cassetti- a coarse bully, (Ian Bedford), the elderly and snoopy Princess Dragomiroff ( Vienna Cox), the stunningly beautiful Countess Andrenyi, (Leigh Ann Larkin), manager of the O.E., Monsieur Bouc ( Evan Zes), British governess Mary Debenham,( Susannah Hoffman), Colonel Arbuthnot (Ian Bedford), Train Conductor Michel ( Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), flibbertigibbet actress Helen Hubbard (Julie Halston) and of course “The Detective” – with the “magnifigue” handlebar mustache, Hercule Poirot played by David Pittu who must solve the “Murder on the Orient Express”.
Firstly the Grand Dame of this production is the majestic, oh-so magnificent train set designed by Tony-Award winning designer Beowulf Boritt. When first revealed, gentle “ooooh and awwwws” can be heard being released throughout the theater – yes it’s a “grand exotic piece de la résistance” a triptych of a ‘30’s period train consisting of conductor, dining and coach compartments, that rolls back and forth, snow covered woods beckon behind, as our suspects scurry about – the train is the drama – it’s designed to make an impression and it does. Second we must take note of the wonderfully creative period costume designs by Tony-Award Winner and Theater Hall of Fame Inductee, William Ivey Long, his costumes set the tone of the glamour, allure, and the exotic locals of this “Golden Age” adventure. Please take note of William’s gorgeous details as seen on period costumes created for characters Helen Hubbard and Countess Andrenyi- absolutely beautiful!
At this time we take note of the exquisite portrayal of Mr. David Pittu as Agatha Christie’s renown Detective – Hercule Poirot. Both stoic and humor-full goes hand in hand with his mustachioed characterization. One can easily say this role was made for Mr. Pittu and his portrayal is not to be missed for those who enjoy theater at its best! Bravo Mr. Pittu !!
Additionally, we would like to single out Miss Julie Halston and her captivating and most humerus portrayal of husband hunting Helen Hubbard. Miss Halston joyfully steals the show whenever she is on stage- plus – she receives The Howard Noticed You Award. Thank you Miss Halston- you were mar-vel-ous!!! In fact, this is a large exceptional cast, and I truly must state they are ALL wonderfully cast in their respective roles. Once again, I look forward to this production finding it’s way to a Broadway theater after its conclusion here in Hartford.
At the start of this production, one can hear the light musical reframe of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” – “Good authors too who once knew better words, Now only use four-letter words, Writing prose. Anything goes….” No better author than Agatha Christie, no better theater than Hartford Stage- I strongly invite you to take in this production. I firmly State- “Simply Sensational”! A murderous good time!! The “Renaissance” at Hartford Stage continues…
Tickets for the Hartford Stage production of “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express” are on sale now and can be purchased by calling (860) 527-5151 or by visiting http://www.hartfordstage.org. The production runs through Sunday, March 25th. Weeknight and evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays at 2 p.m.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at Howards2424@gmail.com