On August 1, we caught the preview of the world premiere of Mrs. Christie by Heidi Armbruster at Dorset Theatre.
Before the show, Artistic Director, Dina Janis and Producing Director, Will Rucker, spoke briefly. Will said, since this is a preview and we will be rehearsing again tomorrow afternoon before the official opening night, “you may be lucky as to see something go wrong. The show you see tonight may not be the show we have tomorrow night.” There were a few glitches, mostly some gremlins playing with props, but otherwise, it was a wonderful performance. I’m very curious to see what, if any change they make (other than fixing the wheel on the sofa.)
The show is inspired by the actual disappearance of Agatha Christie for 11 days in December 1926. It was quite the media spectacle, with 1000’s of people searching for her. Unlike her mysteries that get solved at the end, Agatha Christie barely spoke of the incident and few really know what happened. She was found unharmed in a resort, and the story told is she bumped her head – possibly in in a car accident as her car was found abandoned, lost her memory, and checked herself into a hotel under an assumed name (that of her husband’s mistress). Heidi Armbruster explores what could have happened during that time.
At first, the play was a bit confusing. Let’s be real, British accents can be a hard to understand, especially when the dialog is fast paced. If only there were closed captioning for live theater. Secondly, the first scene (or scone – you’ll get the reference when you see the play) takes place at an Agatha Christie convention in the Christie homestead, with attendees dressed as their favorite characters, so you are jumping around between past and present with characters often dressed the same in each.
The main characters are, Agatha Christie, played by Mary Bacon and Lucy, an American attending the convention alone, played by Jennifer Mudge. Though the two characters are separated by almost a century, they both are, reluctantly, in transition, and their lives become intertwined. Lucy is obsessed with the possibility of a lost Agatha Christie manuscript and the mystery of those missing 11 days of her life. Agatha is obsessed with clinging to a fictionalized version of her life, one that only she believes.
The cast, including characters straight from Agatha Christie’s writing, help Agatha and Lucy, in their time of need. Lucy is befriended by fellow conference attendee, a gentle elderly woman named Jane (Miss Marple?) played by Susan Greenhill, delightfully encouraging Lucy to pursue her quest – “this is your mystery to solve.”
In the second act, Hercule Poirot, played by Sevan Greene, encourages Agatha to face the changes in her life and continue writing. A “relaxing bath” can be wonderful at helping one see options more clearly and Poirot’s is able to gently “convince” Agatha that neither of them can live without the other. A bathtub full of water has never been used so hilariously on stage.
Betsy Hogg, plays Charlotte and Mary, identically dressed servants, no matter the century. An especially funny scene has her going thru a door with a tray, serving breakfast, repeatedly, to Agatha who has totally lost track of the days. Rounding out the excellent cast – Michael Frederic playing Archibald Christie and Nigel. Stephen Stocking as William (like the prince) and Collins. Hannah Caton as Nancy Neele and Chloe.
At one point, one of the characters says, “Time goes in only one direction, unless it’s a circle.” For anyone who has ever had to “start over” which will be anyone who lives long enough, it’s rather reassuring to see, that although starting over may not be what we want to do, ultimately we all eventually have to do it, and we each have in us the ability to write the next chapter in our lives.
Clever story, witty dialog, great acting – there’s no mystery why this show is sure to be a hit. You don’t have to be an Agatha Christie fan to enjoy it.
Mrs. Christie is playing thru August 17th
Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at (802) 867-2223.
104 Cheney Road
Dorset, VT 05251
Up Next: Slow Food by Wendy MacLeod, August 22-31, 2019.