Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Ludwig's thoroughly professional adaptation sticks closely to the Christie blueprint: a group of seemingly unrelated characters are thrown together in a setting they can't easily escape, with an added dash of mayhem, usually a murder, and a brilliant crime solver, this time Christie favorite Hercule Poirot. The story is one of Christie's best, offering a provocative ending in which our hero is left unsure of himself.
The production shows off Asolo Rep's technical resources, theatrical and true to the period. The various locations within the train spinning on and off garnered deserved applause from the opening night audience, the brilliant creations of Paul Tate Depoo III. Costumes by Tracy Dorman are equally brilliant, but less attention getting. Lighting design by Jay Messenger, sound design by Matt Parker, and wigs and make-up design by the always overachieving Michelle Hart contribute to the overall excellence. Projections and film clips make this a multimedia bonanza. Murder on the Orient Express is a reminder of how theater can delight the eyes and the ears.
The cast is an ensemble except for James DeVita as Poirot. To my imagination, DeVita is the perfect Belgian detective as envisioned by Ms. Christie: small in stature; able to appear a bit bookish; brilliant without the trappings of that status. Other standouts include David Breitbarth as railroad manager Monsieur Bouc, Peggy Roeder as Princess Dragomiroff, Tina Stafford as Midwesterner Helen Hubbard, and Diana Coates as Countess Andrenyi, although everyone is almost equally fine in their roles. Joe Ferrarelli, Michael Judah and Brian Ritchie are third-year Asolo Conservatory students featured in minor roles.
Director Peter Amster is best known for comedy, and the tight ensemble-playing is a testament to his skills.
I doubt this production of could be thought of as high art, but it sure is a heck of a fun ride on the fabled train. Get your tickets now, because when word of mouth hits the streets they are going to be hard to come by.
Murder on the Orient Express runs through March 8, 2020, at Asolo Repertory Theatre, Mertz Theatre, FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. For information and tickets, call the box office at 941-351-8000 or visit www.asolorep.org.
Cast (in order of Appearance):