Hedgerow Theater presents an original stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic novel THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES by director Jared Reed. Agatha Christie is well known for her murder mysteries, particularly for her world-famous character detective Hercule Poirot. Reed’s adaptation brings to life one of the Christie novel that rarely makes it to the stage and pulls the audience into a world of greed, deception, lies, and love in a classic “whodunit”.
Emily (Stacy Skinner) is Mr. Cavendish’s widow. She recently remarried a much younger man, Alfred Inglethorp (Mark Swift) despite her family’s protests that he is simply marrying for money. They live at Styles—the estate she inherited from her former husband—with her two stepsons John (Ned Pryce) and Lawrence (Brock D. Vickers); John’s wife Mary (Bonnie Baldini); Cynthia (Emily Parker), the daughter of a deceased friend; nurse and companion Evelyn (Allison Bloechl); and house maid Dorcas (Susan Wefel). Captain Hastings (Shaun Yates)—an old friend of John’s—arrives at Styles for a visit. Enter murder and mystery.
Mrs. Inglethorp dies; Dr. Bauerstein (Josh Portera) suspects her death is from strychnine poisoning. Captain Hastings calls in his world-famous friend Detective Hercule Poirot (Zoran Kovcic) to investigate. Nothing is adding up, quickly everyone is a suspect complete with clear motive, opportunity, and weak alibis. As Poirot investigates, he uncovers more layers of drama as their lives are scrutinized to find what could push someone to murder.
Reed’s adaptation is thoughtful, well-conceived, and impressive. The actors deliver on the script. Even through the difficult rapid-fire pace of Poirot’s explanations, it stayed true to the Christie’s British-style murder mysteries. As the story unfolds, the audience is challenged to use their own deductive minds to vote for their primary suspect. This makes it imperative that the mystery remains a mystery throughout the show—and the actors deliver. They effectively convey the true characters as they were intended. They provide the mindful yet subtle suspense needed to keep this fun and puzzling show a success. The set was gorgeous, the lighting techniques effectively drew the audience to (or from) the action, the costumes were stylish and aptly appointed. These and so many other components I’m sure I’m failing to mention helped this show achieve a successful world premiere.
[Hedgerow Theater, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley, PA]. March 27–May 8, 2016; hedgerowtheatre.org.