Murder, Mayhem, And Laughs
On This Express Out Of Ogunquit
Murder On The Orient Express
The Ogunquit Playhouse
Adapted By Ken Ludwig
Directed By Shaun Kerrison
Through August 31
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
The Ogunquit Playhouse is well known for the musicals performed on its stage each year. They are consistently good and among the best to be seen anywhere. In fact, they are so good it is all they have presented for over 12 years. Why tinker with success?
Well, this year Artistic Director Brad Kenney has decided to do just that. For the first time on his watch a non musical has been included in the lineup. Brad has chosen Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, and it is proving to be a very wise move.
Adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig and directed by Shaun Kerrison, this is a not to be missed production which may very well turn out to be the high point in what has been a very strong season at the Playhouse.
The set design by Beowulf Boritt and costumes by William Ivy Long are magical. It is amazing to watch what is created on stage as the Orient Express rolls into the theater. The use of projections and the framing of scenes is spectacular, the colors are vivid, and the costumes would be the envy of Edith Head. Most of the sound effects are created through the use of music, a touch that is quite effective.
While the mise en scene alone makes this is an extremely strong piece of theatre, the actors put it over the top. Led by Steven Rattazzi in the role of Hercule Poirot, the cast is just amazing.
“Mr. Rattazzi is brilliant as Poirot”
Mr. Rattazzi is brilliant as Poirot. It is almost surreal to see how he embodies his character. His accent is impeccable, his movements purposeful yet effortless, his timing absolutely perfect, and his mustache exquisitely groomed. Agatha Christie would be very pleased.
I mentioned Mr. Rattazzi’s accent, I was also fascinated by the panoply of accents used in the play. From Swedish to French to Hungarian, to Russian, to American they are all captivating and musical. The dialog is crisp and fast with many witty one-liners that are quite funny.
The play is fast paced and has a rhythm to it that never skips a beat. Each player is perfectly on time with his and her lines. Anita Gillette as Princess Dragomiroff is captivating. On the night I attended Ms Gillette was celebrating her 83rd birthday, and she has the energy of a person half that age. Known for her role in Moonstruck as well as numerous stage, screen, and television roles she is the consummate professional.
All 10 members of the cast give solid performances. Ruth Gottschall, Christopher Gurr, Kate Loprest, Stephan James Anthony, Andrew Dits, Patricia Noonan, Olev Aleksander, and Anna Tempte each put their own special stamp on the character they play. Each deserve special praise for bringing the audience such a varied array of personages who all in the end have something in common.
The train is also a star. It is stunning when the light from it first shines through the theater. Watching the scenes as they move from the different cars is amazing. It is remarkable to see what is done on the stage at the Ogunquit Playhouse; really breathtaking. With so little downtime between productions, it is hard to comprehend how the crew was able to create such a complicated set so quickly. The people behind the scenes deserve a standing ovation for the work they do.
While the story is intriguing and also very funny, it is about a murder, actually two murders, and it ends with a moral dilemma. Many are already familiar with the story so are aware of this, but when Mr. Rattazzi’s Poirot steps forward to address the audience about making such a choice it is quite moving and thought provoking.
Murder On The Orient Express is only playing for two weeks. Tickets will become scarce, so I suggest you don’t hesitate and get down to the station to book your seat for this incredible ride. I hope the success of this non musical will lead to another next year. I have a suggestion: Why not go with Agatha Christie again; perhaps Witness For The Prosecution.