Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS at Guthrie Theater

Running May 13 - July 2, 2023

José Casas Receives Inaugural Dominic Orlando Playwriting Award

José Casas Receives Inaugural Dominic Orlando Playwriting Award

What does one get if they combine an international cast of characters, a world renown detective, and a murder on a cross country train during a snowstorm? It should be clear to anyone that this lethal concoction produces one of the most famous and heart racing mysteries of all time. By one of the greatest authors of all time, Agatha Christie.

Guthrie Theater has brought Murder on the Orient Express to vivid life in a dazzling and fast paced production that is put simply, would be a crime to miss.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the plot of Murder, a fully booked train departing from Istanbul is stranded in a snow drift on it's cross country journey. Carrying a colorful cast of characters, they are forced to deal with a sudden murder aboard the famed express train, The Orient Express. Coincidentally, a world famous detective is on board, who is charged with solving the mystery and bringing the murderer to light.

Ken Ludwig has done an incredible job of adapting the source material due to the complexities that the story involves. Not only has he brought these characters to life but he has injected a healthy amount of comedy into the story and it is sure to have the audience's sides splitting for most of the show.

It is difficult to find a place to begin when discussing this particular production because it is really is spectacular in all aspects. The grandeur is on full display immediately, when the audience enters the theater and they are treated to one of the most well designed sets that has graced any Minneapolis stage in recent memory. Rob Koharchik's designs are utterly remarkable, from his art deco proscenium to the famed train car itself. Koharchik's designs are sure to have the audience's jaws on the floor.

José Casas Receives Inaugural Dominic Orlando Playwriting AwardHelping to create this mystical world, Devon Painter has brought each character to life in costumes that are so individual to each person, that if this production were done in silence, we would know exactly who they are and where they have come from. A true feat that should be commended. A particular highlight being the regalia that Painter has put Michelle Barber's Princess Dragomiroff. A true chef's kiss of the costuming world.

Then there is the cast themselves. You would be hard pressed to find a stronger ensemble of actors, each and every member of the cast is firing on all cylinders. Lead by the unmatched, Andrew May as the famed detective Hercule Poirot. May utilizes every moment he has on stage (and he has a lot of it) as he truly embodies the detective that has become so etched in people's minds. Injecting moments of hilarity, only endears the audience to him more fully. As he seems to come closer and closer to revealing his suspect, May goes full out with giddiness and comedy. A far cry from the dramatic portrayal that most viewers in the audience will be familiar with by Kenneth Branagh.

Going toe to toe with May's Poirot, is Sally Wingert as Helen Hubbard. A loud and obnoxious multiple divorcee who has many opinions and not a filter in sight to stop them from spewing out of her. Wingert's comedic timing is always a treat to behold but here she really lets loose and is allowed to be as over the top as she likes but she never overdoes it.

Rounding out the production's "leads" is the show's director, Risa Brainin who had crafted a marvelous night at the theater. It is not an easy feat, to direct a show that has hundreds of moving pieces and she has done a sublime job. Especially a story that is so beloved by millions of people around the world.

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