- I’m not a big mystery novel reader, but when I have a
chance to see one of Agatha Christie’s works translated into
a stage play, I am always eager to experience the grand dame
of mysteries, though I can seldom figure out who the guilty
party is. Listening
to people’s comments during the two intermissions of the
Sunset Playhouse’s “Murder on the Nile,” I realized that
I wasn’t the only one.
on Christie’s 1937 novel “Death on the Nile,” the story
takes place on a cruise ship meandering down the Nile River in
Egypt. The exotic setting, complete with bothersome
beadsellers hawking their wares as the vacationers dock, lends
a certain mysterious flavor in itself. Whenever there is a
culture clash and an attitude of xenophobia, there are bound
to be judgments and misunderstandings. We also sense a
superior attitude on the part of some of the characters and
insinuations of some prejudice between economic and ethnic
entourage of travelers includes a snobby British aunt and her
lowly niece, Miss ffoliot-ffoulkes and Christina Grant; Kay
and Simon Mostyn, a pair of affluent newlyweds; Dr. Bessner, a
German doctor; Canon Pennefather, a minister who happens to be
the guardian of Kay Mostyn; Jacqueline de Severac, an ex-fiancee
of Simon who is stalking the Mostyns; Smith, a cynical
sociologist; and Louise, a French maid-servant of Kay Mostyn.
This is an interesting collection of characters, to be sure,
all of whom have some hidden agendas.
the cruise proceeds, we get to know each character more fully.
Pennefather is a holy beggar, interested in pursuing
souls but more so his own pet projects, mostly by fundraising;
Dr. Bessner is angry about the machinations of Kay Mostyn’s
business magnate father, who reduced his city to poverty;
Smith doesn’t believe in much beyond his own cynical
observations of the human race, although he does experience a
change of heart; Kay and Simon, who have their own tensions
over money and the rather seedy way in which their
relationship began, and Jackie, who is one very vengeful
has-been. So tension lurks beneath the pleasant surface of
cruising down a beautiful river.
the cast of characters is reduced by two, we are left to
figure out who did the dirty deed and why. This is the
challenge for most of the characters and all of us, and the
shrewd Pennefather takes it upon himself to play detective
until the police arrive, and an astute investigator he is.
cast is strong, the pacing keeps us totally engaged and the
ending is surprising. The best performances are rendered by
Julia Snider as Jacqueline, and Michael Chobanoff as
Pennefather. Other strong members of the cast include Doug
Smedbron as Dr. Bessner, Ruth Arnell as Kay, and Matthew J.
Patten as Smith.
set design by Dana Fralick, costumes by Sharon Sohner and
skillful direction by the versatile Carol Dolphin united to
offer us a quality production.