BWW Review: A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED at Granite Theatre
In the Granite Theatre's current production of A Murder is Announced, the classic Agatha Christie motif of murder at an English country house may make for a deadly evening for the characters, but it makes a lighthearted evening of entertainment. The play is a 1977 adaption by Leslie Darbon of the 1950 Christie novel of the same name, which is considered a classic in the genre.
The large cast features many Granite Theatre favorites. This talented ensemble adds color and to life the collection of characters that populate this play and under the direction of John Cillino, they take the audience on a fast-paced joy ride through the twists and turns of a story as it unfolds in the quiet village of Chipping Cleghorn where it seems almost everyone has something to hide and some might have a motive for murder
Diana Blanda is a pure delight as dotty Dora "Bunny" Bunner, perhaps one of the few residents of the village who has nothing to hide. Blanda, who shone last season as Florence Foster Jenkins in the Granite's production of Souvenir, gives an exuberant, over-the-top portrayal of Bunny, endowing the character with just the right combination of endearing and annoying.
Another standout performance comes from Veronica Strickland, who finds every comic nuance in the role of Mitzi, the fierce foreign housemaid who takes orders from no one, including the lady of the house, Letitia Blacklock, played by Michelle Mania. Mania's Blacklock is cool, calm and sophisticated, a nice counterpoint to the rest of the characters buzzing around her country home-permanent house guests, nosy neighbors and of course, Christie's famous snooping senior, Miss Marple.
Heather Carey's portrayal of Jane Marple has refreshing combination of strength, smarts and grace, a welcome change from the usual interpretation of Miss Marple. She is well matched by Michael Jepson (twin brother to Granite Theatre's Artistic Director David Jepson), who plays Inspector Craddick. There is a nice chemistry between them that underscores the collaboration the characters need to discovery the murderer's identity, as they slowly untangle the strands of truth amid deception and red herrings.
Judy George charms as Mrs. Swettenham the busybody neighbor who invites herself over when "a murder is announced" thinking a party game is about to start.
She's accompanied by her cynical son, Edmund, portrayed by Tom Steenburg in a sharp, smart performance.
Rounding out the cast are Danielle Conti as the hardworking Phillipa Haynes, and Zack Turnquist as both Rudi Scherz and Sargeant Mellors. They, like the entire cast (except for Brit Heather Carey for whom comes it came naturally) performed their roles with accents -mostly British-that were polished, consistent, and a pleasant surprise which enhanced the show.
A Murder is Announced runs until September 30 at the Granite Theatre, Westerly, RI. For more information, go to www.thegranitetheare.com.