World Premiere of “The Man in the Brown Suit” Receives Vigorous Performance
How is it possible that there is an Agatha Christie story that has not been done on stage yet? Dozens and dozens of playgoers packed Saratoga Arts Sunday where seats had to be added to accommodate the Christie crowd. “The Man in the Brown Suit” is receiving its world premiere stage adaptation written by Mary Jane Hansen for this iTheatre Saratoga production directed by Patricia DiBenedetto Snyder with an exceptional cast of seven giving this adventure story an energetic hearing.
This 1924 story of Christie’s finds a young woman in the lead, Anne Beddingfield (the beautiful and spiky Beth Pietrangelo) who witnesses a murder and is immediately ensnared in what happened to the man. She finds a slip of paper at the murder scene mentioning Kilmorden Castle which turns out to be the name of a ship heading to South Africa. There is a related murder the next day at Mill House in Marlow where a woman has been found dead shortly after a man in a brown suit has entered the house which is owned by Sir Eustace Pedler, MP. Anne books passage on the ship and we’re off!
Onboard, Anne meets Sir Eustace (the appealingly eccentric John McGuire) who has been going through a string of secretaries including Pagett (the dry Oliver Comstock Reynolds), Miss Pettigrew (the chameleonic Mary Jane Hansen) and Harry Rayburn (brusque Kevin Miner) who turns out to be the titular character. Also, onboard are Suzanne Blair (the invaluably kicky Anny Degange) and Colonel Race (authoritatively played by Tim Christensen) who weaves a tale of hundreds of thousands in diamonds stolen by the son of a gold magnate and his friend who end up going to war the week later.
Beth Pietrangelo and Kevin Miner make a most appealing couple. Pietrangelo, so good in last year’s “Lunch with Mrs. Baskin” at Lake George Dinner Theatre has a sharp darting intelligence and expressive dark eyes that rivet your attention. She’s an adventurous actor well worth following to the ends of the earth. Kevin Miner has an understated, offhand manner that draws you in where you discover wells of feeling. The rest of the company provide enough color to keep you involved in the long tale. John McGuire, the clown prince, is waspish and appropriately lordly, Anny DeGange is always good company and lifted my spirits with a late entrance after a long time off-stage. Mary Jane Hansen, the playwright, challenges herself with four vastly different characters and succeeds admirably. They were assisted with an accomplished score by Will Severin.
On a nearly bare stage with only the frequent changes of chairs and photo projections to alter the setting, this picaresque tale of hidden identities, murder attempts, stolen diamonds, and a late reveal kept the audience involved throughout, primarily through the great efforts and energy of the cast. Ms. Snyder knows her way around a Christie, having produced many in her long tenure as Artistic Director of NYSTI. “The Man in the Brown Suit” is a fun romp in Christie land with an enormously appealing young woman cutting through the hugger-mugger. The seven actors did a terrific job powering through this young woman’s adventure story which appropriately ends in a well-earned, swooning embrace.