BWW Review: A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED at Artistic Synergy Of Baltimore is a Treat for Mystery Fans
As in most great mysteries, a murder has been committed. Yet in the case of Artistic Synergy of Baltimore's new show, a murder has also been announced. Their production of Agatha Christie's A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED is an enjoyable treat for any mystery-lover or fan of one of the great writers of all time. The play, adapted from the Christie novel of the same name, is set in a small village in England just after the war. The action starts when the lively cast of characters are surprised to read in their local paper that a murder will occur in their home that very evening. It's all very mysterious, if I do say so myself...
As she is in many of Christie's novels, the intrepid sleuth Ms. Marple makes a memorable appearance. In this instance she's played by the talented Ashley Gerhardt. Ms. Gerhardt plays Ms. Marple with the perfect mix of busybody and shrewd investigator, all with the delight that comes from solving a mystery. She sparkles on stage. Whether she's featured prominently in the scene or is a background player at the time, Ms. Gerhardt adds a little something extra to the action that makes her Marple all the more delightful.
Another standout in the cast is Catherine Shinaberry playing Letitia Blacklock. As the lady of the house Ms. Shinaberry is stately and reserved. She portrays a woman who is very accustomed to being in charge, and yet as the action unspools around her, she continues to be in her element. She plays Blacklock with a good blend of warmth, and power. Ms. Shinaberry's stateliness added to Ms. Gerhardt's delightful investigative process adds a great deal to their banter on stage. Another nod should go to Ms. Shinaberry for her work with the costumes in the production. The dresses and suits each character wears fit beautifully into 1950s upper-crust England. There are quite a few changes throughout the piece, and each costume seems to be more beautiful than the last.
The band of eager characters arriving to witness the possible murder at the estate round out the cast of the production. Whether it's Ms. Blacklock's posh niece and nephew (Ann Marie Taglavore and Phil Vannoorbeeck), the old bitty (Donna Zubrowski) the evasive lodger (Chloe Scully), the professional detective (Jim Fitzpatrick) or the nosy neighbors (Jim Gerhardt and Claire Levine), each actor seems to fit wonderfully into this post-war English village. They bring the fun of a mystery to the stage in a very real way. Everyone knows that the best part of reading a mystery novel is a good cliffhanger. In this instance, the characters play these moments up thanks to dramatic pauses and light cues. Director Michael Crook is smart to bring this fun addition to the work. It provides a tongue in cheek quality to the show, and is a sound way to end an act.
Another character bringing fun to the production is Mitzi the maid played memorably by Mel Tillery. If British crime novels have taught us anything, it's that there's always a maid. In this instance, Ms. Tillery is wonderfully hilarious in her role as the oft-ignored maid. Her frequent rantings about her life in Serbia and her perfectly-timed inconvenient entrances are well-delivered.
In the end, like most detective novels, the good guy solves the case and the bad guy is caught. While I did try to investigate throughout the show, I never guessed the outcome (and I won't be spoiling the surprise in this review), so I suppose I should leave the sleuthing to Ms. Marple instead. However, if you count yourself in the same class as the intrepid detectives Agatha Christie portrays in her books, I recommend you visit the talented creatives at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore and put your sleuthing to the test. Even if you can't solve the mystery of A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, you'll still have a fabulous time!
A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED plays weekends through May 5 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore (Prince of Peace Lutheran Church | 8212 Philadelphia Road | Baltimore, MD 21237) Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.