By Agatha Christie
Directed by Larry Stallings
Greater Orlando Repertory Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>
Now I know where “Colonel Mustard in the Drawing Room with a Coal Scuttle” came from. A blizzard besets Monkwell Manor as young Mollie (Kimberly Luffman) and Giles (David Strauss) open for their first day of business as a guest house. The usual collection of red herrings and eccentric characters drift in with the snow – stiff Major Metcalf (Eric Kuritzky), blustering Mrs. Boyle (Paula Keenan), suave yet creepy Paravicini (Kevin Sigman), swishy Christopher Wren (Glen Howard) and sexy Miss Casewell (Sarah Lockard). Each has a secret, each has motive and opportunity, each may or may not be guilty of an offstage murder. It’s up to efficient Detective Trotter (Daniel Petrie) to sort it all out.
The show has a pleasant period charm, and fits well in the College Park church hall in which it’s staged. One problem that bedevils the show is inconsistent accents. Kuritzky and Strauss keep a stiff upper lip, but other cast members wanders in and out of British, or just gives up and speak American. As to acting, Petrie’s Trotter does the best job; he’s efficient, ruthless, and intimidating. Sigman’s Paravicini feels over the top as the Italian suspect without portfolio even as he avoids the pregnant question “Exactly where are you from?” If anyone stole the show, it was Mr. Howard – his role involved overacting, but some how he made more sense than anyone else. Odd things happen on stage as well – when characters wished to avoid Trotter’s questions, they either studied the elaborate set intensely, or like Lockard, went and stood in corners until the next scene.
Of course, I won’t give away the ending, but intermission discussions were surprisingly prescient and figuring out the killer never seems the real point of the show. We read and enjoy mysteries not so much to solve the puzzle, but to partially enter a dangerous world of words. Our bodies are never at risk, but we can pretend they are, and that’s worth the visit.