‘Murder’ worth a watch this week

By Amanda Manchester, Herald Reporter
Posted 6/12/24

EVANSTON — Last weekend, Sagebrush Theatre Productions hosted its opening performances of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit murder mystery “Murder on the Orient Express” at …

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‘Murder’ worth a watch this week

Posted

EVANSTON — Last weekend, Sagebrush Theatre Productions hosted its opening performances of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit murder mystery “Murder on the Orient Express” at the Strand. The crime drama, directed by Katie Heckert and Adrienne Ashley, garnered much community interest and support, and features two separate casts.

When a murder is committed aboard the Express, storied Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is suddenly tasked with sorting through clues, evidence, dubious passenger identities and potential motives. Further complicating matters is inclement weather, stranding the manifest in Yugoslavia with a killer amongst them.

Poirot, played by Roman Smith and Ian Riela from casts A and B respectively, is an intense and a bit obsessive compulsive character. Journeying home to London, he boards the Orient Express in Istanbul, Turkey with the help of the owner and director of train operations, Monsieur Bouc.  Played on both casts by Vern Hopkin, Bouc serves equal parts as Poirot’s best friend and eventual co-detective aboard the train.

“This time I am using science to catch the guilty party. Usually for me it is the psychology — the mind of the killer — but not with these clues,” Poirot explains to Buoc.

Potential suspects include: British governess Mary Debenham (played by Shelby Bowman for cast A, and Rachel Smith for cast B); American Hector MacQueen (played by cast A’s Andrew Dover and cast B’s Alexis Rasmussen), who serves as an assistant to a morally-questionable and antagonistic Samuel Ratchett (portrayed by Scotty Heckert); dutiful Frenchman Michel the Conductor (played by Carlos Correa); stoic and wealthy Russian Princess Dragomiroff (played by Chrystal Dunn for cast A and Bowman for cast B); Swedish nurse and missionary Greta Ohlsson (Katrina Callister); Hungarian noblewoman Countess Andrenyi (portrayed by cast A’s Rachel Smith and cast B’s Ashley); boisterous Midwestern-American Helen Hubbard (Julie Kokoshka for cast A, Katie Heckert for cast B); and Scottish soldier Colonel Arbuthnot (played by Hayden Godfrey).

Actors Bowman and Smith pull double duty, each playing different characters per cast, per weekend showing.

“Hungarian, French, Russian, Swedish. What are all these people doing on the same train?  Something was amiss!” a confounded Poirot exclaims.

The Sagebrush cast and crew make clever use of lighting, soundtrack and an elaborate set design to tell an engrossing tale of murder most foul. The performances are solidly acted, this fun summer show should not be missed!

There are still four upcoming opportunities to catch “Murder on the Orient Express” this week. June 12-14 at 7 p.m., and June 15 at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $15; children under 12 and seniors are $10.