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Saturday, 01 June 2013 15:09

Oh, for Christie's sake!

Written by Bob Wilcox
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Watching an Agatha Christie mystery, I have often wanted someone to do what Peter Gordon has tried to do in "Murdered to Death", which played recently at the Alpha Players of Florissant.

He's gathered in a country manor house in the 1930s the usual suspects. Mildred is the owner of the manor house, and she soon turns up dead. A prime, if unlikely, suspect is her niece and caregiver Dorothy, who stands to inherit the place. We also have a Colonel Blimp and his wife and a French painter and his pretentious companion. Of course, the local amateur sleuth, here named Miss Maple, has dropped by. Bunting is the aged, deteriorating butler, Pratt is the police inspector and Thompkins his assisting constable.

All play exaggerated versions of their Agatha Christie counterparts. Some are more exaggerated than others. Miss Maple's wild, off-the-wall guess at the perpetrator turns out to be wild and off the wall and totally inaccurate. The inspector is almost too inept; the shtick begins to pay diminishing returns.

Fun is to be had here, but it could use more flair than we got at Alpha to ease us by the weaker spots. Paul Balfe did the pompous fool of an inspector well, and Barry Thornell's timing of the butler's decrepitude was delicious. George Lewandowski huffed and puffed well as the colonel, with Tonya Thornell as his wife. Tom Ayres and NoreenAnne Rhodes were the obviously suspicious Frenchman and his companion, Elaine Sweeney was tweedily self-assured as Miss Maple, Kathy Wennlund was the first to go as the estate's owner, Diane Kenley played her niece, and Mike Rudroff was the long-suffering constable.

T.R. Melnykov directed, with a handsome, smartly decorated set by Melnykov and Paul Sieveking, lights by Bob Veatch, and costumes by Barbara Langa.

Some confusion is to be expected in any good mystery, but I was puzzled by the variety of accents among these characters, some Brit, some not, including among the not some of the most British characters. And unless I'm mistaken about the dress of provincial English policemen, the constable's outfit looked like an American cop's uniform.

But I do like the idea of sending up Agatha Christie.

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