There are few things more enticing to the mystery lover than a classic murder mystery that also is a play. Murder on the Nile by Agatha Christie, currently playing at Lakewood Theatre, is just such an event. For me at least.
Christie was master of the drawing room murder mystery, and this play is no exception. The action takes place aboard the luxurious SS Lotus
as it cruises up the Nile. It’s a honeymoon cruise for The Richest Woman In England, Kay Ridgeway (Tiffany Groben) and her new husband Simon Mostyn (Chase Fulton). Once on board, they encounter an old Ridgeway family friend, Kay’s guardian Canon Pennefather (Gary L. Anderson). There’s the pretentious rich dowager Miss ffoliot-ffoulkes and her abidingly patient niece/companion Christina (Katie Mortemore), the grumpy foreign Dr. Bessner (Scott Engdahl), Kay’s French maid Louise (Mamie Wilhelm), the handsome but misplaced socialist William Smith (Jacob Lee Smith), bead sellers (Joshua D. Willis and Alec Cameron Lugo), and an overworked Steward (Matthew Sepeda).
And last but certainly not least, there is the angry, jilted ex-fiancée Jacqueline De Severac (Sara Jane Fridlich). She’s been stalking the newlyweds for weeks, and carries a cute little gun in her handbag. We know there’s going to be trouble.
After a time of everyone sorting each other out, a murder is announced–rather loudly–by the maid. Canon Pennefather takes over as detective-in-chief, and the investigation begins. True to Christie, there is enough drawing room drama to captivate a much larger audience than the SS Lotus. A Carnival cruise ship perhaps would be more fitting. But as it is, we are sufficiently stumped until, under Pennefather’s leadership, the killer is satisfactorily apprehended. It’s a great evening of mid-winter fun.
For me, Max Ward’ sumptuous set, the observation saloon of the ship, is worth the price of admission, as are the wonderful period costumes by Margaret Louise Chapman. Both bespeak the kind of luxury some Englishmen enjoyed up until World War II. There is appropriate dress for different times of day on a steamboat featuring broad river views, convenient screens, and banquettes tucked into wood-paneled walls. This was a time when one knew one’s place in the world and how to behave in it–except for that damned socialist!–and one could get a decent gin fizz.
And while these times are behind us, Nancy McDonald directs a flawless cast that takes us back some 80 years to wallow in luxury and surprise. It’s a show suitable for ages 8-10 and up!
Christie originally wrote the play Moon on the Nile in 1937 and then decided it would fare better as a novel. She turned it into Death on the Nile, a Hercule Poirot mystery, then revived it as Murder on the Nile in 1942 minus Hercule. The canon was added in his stead. After Christie found backing for the play, it premiered in Dundee (Northumberland) in 1944 and finally made it to London’s West End in 1946. The play runs Thursdays through Saturdays, with Sunday matinees and evening performances, through February 12. There is no evening performance on February 12.