Theater review by Gail M. Burns
The annual murder mystery – almost always an Agatha Christie – does so well for the Theater Barn in New Lenanon that they are running this year’s offering for three weekends instead of the usual two. A Murder Is Announced offers lots of familiar faces on stage and familiar names in the program at the cheerful, no-frills family-run theatre. John Trainor is once again wearing the trench coat as a Christie sleuth; Joan Coombs is dithering; Meg Dooley is playing the highly strung mistress of the house where the murders (yes, there are two) take place; Abe Phelps has designed a handsome set which is well lit by his son Allen Phelps; and a supporting cast of talented young actors struts their stuff.
A Murder is Announced is a 1977 stage adaption by Leslie Darbon of Dame Agatha Christie’s 1950 novel of the same title, which was her fiftieth published book. The novel was very well received and is considered classic Christie, so it is interesting that Dame Agatha didn’t dramatize it herself. If she had, I suspect we would have ended up with a smoother, funnier, less fraught work than director Aaron Holbritter has to work with here.
In a large country house called Little Paddocks in the small English village of Chipping Cleghorn, Miss Blacklock (Dooley) is minding her manners and presiding over her hodge-podge household of friends and relations with the questionable assistance of her lone servant Mitzi (Shannon Paul), a loquacious and excitable Russian. It is Friday, October 13, and uppermost on Miss Blacklock’s mind is the celebration of her dear friend Miss Bunner’s (Coombs) birthday. She’s been Miss Blacklock’s companion ever since the latter returned from a long stay abroad nursing her late sister through a losing battle with tuberculosis. But the day-to-day concerns take a back seat when a notice in the personals column of the local Gazette announces a murder will take place at Little Paddocks at 6:30 that evening.