Artfully Edmonds: Driftwood’s ‘Murder’ a delicious whodunit

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Carol Jean Chandler as Miss Marple and Justin Tinsley as Edmund Swettenham in "A Murder is Announced." (Photo by Michael Bury)

By Ellen Chappelle

On a perfectly ordinary day, an unnerving ad appears in the morning paper in Chipping Cleghorn, a perfectly ordinary English village. It states that a murder will take place at Little Paddocks boarding house at 6:30 that evening. The announcement comes as a surprise to Little Paddocks’ owner Letitia Blacklock, who says she has no idea what it means. The boarding house residents react with varying degrees of fear, while Miss Blacklock tries to remain calm as she prepares for that evening’s guests.

Naturally, curious neighbors begin to appear on the doorstep in the waning afternoon light. As the clock strikes 6:30, the lights go out and a door swings open, revealing an unseen stranger armed with a blinding flashlight… and a gun.

Once the murder does indeed take place, everyone becomes a suspect – and it seems that each has something to hide. Between the Chief Inspector and the clever Miss Marple, however, the mystery eventually unravels, but not without consequences. And another murder!

The entire cast is back row, from left: Michelle Fuller, Juliana Perreira, Julie Huang, Nathan Dewey, Melody Mistlin, Carol Jean Chandler, Quata Cody, Cynthia Gibbs, Dennis McCabe, Vicki Lynn Maxey, Elizabeth Power. Front row, from left: Melissa Malloy, Ariana Power, Justin Tinsley, Ted Jaquith.

Driftwood Players kicks off its new season with the classic crime drama “A Murder is Announced,” by Agatha Christie. After a slow start, the play hit its stride and the opening night audience warmed to the eccentric characters, the room peppered with chuckles at the witty dialogue. Each part was perfectly cast and, aside from widespread struggles with the notoriously difficult British accent, each actor was believable in his or her role.

Standouts were Melissa Malloy, who perfectly embodied the fiery cook Mitzi; Quata Cody as the delightfully daft Bunny; Juliana Pereira who was the picture of British calm as Letitia Blacklock; and Carol Jean Chandler as the unassuming but astute Miss Marple.

Those who enjoy listening for clues and trying to figure out “whodunit” will surely enjoy the plot’s twists and turns and the revelations about each character as the truth bubbles to the surface. At its heart a character study, this play is classic Christie.
“A Murder is Announced,” Christie’s 50th novel, was first published in 1950 and adapted for the stage in 1977. The book was widely acclaimed and the play has been performed onstage and on television countless times.

A reviewer for London’s Times Literary Supplement wrote of the novel: “The plot is as ingenious as ever, the writing more careful, the dialogue both wise and witty; while suspense is engendered from the very start, and maintained skillfully until the final revelation: it will be a clever reader indeed who anticipates this, and though Miss Christie is as usual scrupulously fair in scattering her clues, close attention to the text is necessary if a correct solution of the mystery is to be arrived at before the astute Miss Marple unmasks the culprit.”

“A Murder is Announced” runs Sept. 9-25 at Driftwood’s Wade James Theatre at 950 Main St. in Edmonds. Performances take place Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. (Sept. 16 is unavailable due to a full house booking.) Tickets are $23 for general admission, $20 for juniors, seniors and military. To purchase tickets, call 425-774-9600 or visit Driftwood’s website.

If the play’s dialogue about Mitzi’s tasty chocolate cake Delicious Death has you pining for a decadent dessert, visit the official Agatha Christie website, where her grandson Mathew Prichard states, “As a thank you to her fans the world over we have invited the queen of party cakes, Jane Asher, to create a recipe for Delicious Death as a novel way to mark the 120th anniversary (of Christie’s birth).”

Juicy murder and delectable chocolate cake – delicious, indeed!

With a background in theatre and journalism, Ellen Chappelle is perfectly poised to covers the local arts scene for My Edmonds News. She also keeps busy writing and editing for artists and small businesses, publishing an informational site for dog owners and creating handcrafted jewelry. Please keep her posted about all things artistic in Edmonds by emailing her at arts@myedmondsnews.com.

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