Volume 12 Week 5

Friday, Feb. 23


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Bob Monette



(Posted 1:30 p.m., Feb. 25)

Orleans Older Players pull off ambitious production with flare
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

AnnMarie Neilson and Randy Bellini form part of the amazing emsemble cast in the Orleans Older Players production of Agatha Christie's 'A Murder Is Announced'. Fred Sherwin/Photo

It's been four years since Orleans Young Players artistic director Kathi Langston first came up with the idea to offer theatre lessons to a more mature clientele.

Since then the Orleans Older Players have tackled increasingly more ambitious material. But nothing they've done in the past compares with the program's latest production of Agatha Christie's "A Murder Is Announced".

The script is 107 pages thick and the play itself is two hours long with an intermission.

The play takes place entirely in the living room of Miss Letitia Blacklock who is about to become the beneficiary of a large inheritance from the estate of her former boss, Randall Goedler. The initial beneficiary if Goedler's wife Belle, but she is frail and in poor health. If she dies, Letitia will become a very wealthy woman, but if she is predeceased by Letitia the estate will go to Pip and Emma, who are the children of Goedler's estranged sister Sonia.

The one problem with the play is that these facts don't become clear to the audience until the end, and even then it's still rather confusing. But on a positive note, you don't need to know all the background to enjoy the main plot which at its centre is a murder mystery.

In the opening scene several of the characters are reading the local newspaper when one of them notices a curious notice. "A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks, at 6:30 p.m. Friends accept this, the only intimation."

Little Paddocks is the name of Miss Blacklock's home and Tuesday, Nov. 108 coincides with a party she's been planning.

As the guests arrive on the date in question, they assume the notice is part of a game Miss Blacklock has been planning for them. As the clock strikes 6:30 p.m., the lights go out and a door swings open, revealing a man with a blinding torch.

In a heavily accented voice, the man demands they "Stick 'em up!".

Most of the guests do so, believing it to be part of the game. Several shots then ring out in the dark. The door slams shut, and panic takes hold: in short order, it's discovered that the fuses are blown, the gunman has been shot, and Ms. Blacklock's ear is bleeding, apparently from a bullet's near-miss.

The "victim" is identified as Rudi Scherz, a receptionist at a local spa, who had asked Letitia for money a few days previous.

Inspector Craddock is called into investigate the apparent homicide assisted by Miss Jane Marple who just happened to be one of the guests.

Together they unravel the mystery along with a few shocking twists. The best of which are saved for the end.

"A Murder Is Announced" is a classic Agatha Christie mystery brought to life by a talented mix of OOPS veterans and first-timers.

The lead role of Letitia Blacklock is played by OOPS veteran Tina Chan. If the script is 107 pages long, Miss Blacklock's lines appears on 106 of them. In light of the sheer volume of material Chan had to memorize, she does and incredible job in delivering her lines without a single pause or stumble.

Fellow OOPS veterans Biz MacDonald and Randy Beillini do a wonderful job as well as Miss Marple and Inspector Craddock, while Céline Nadeau was a delight as Bunny.

The husband and wife team of Lyne and David Shackleton are part of the cast as well. Lyne plays the rather eccentric Bunch Harmon and Daivid plays the equally eccentric Colonel Easterbrook.

One thing I love about David Shackleton is his ability to always stay in character even when he's not involved in the dialogue.

Another actor whose performance stood out for me was that of AnnMarie Neilson who plays Miss Blacklock's cook Mitzi, a crazed German chef who has a propensity to thank herself and acknowledge the salutation in the same breath.

Newcomers Nora Torres and Christine Brahams also do an excellent job t as Julia Simmons and Phillippa Haymes.

And then there's Monique Ricketts, the chanteuse, who delivers the musical interludes, acapella, between each scene. In my humble opinion, Ms. Ricketts performance is worth the price of admission alone.

The cast also includes Sue Ashton as Patricia Simmons, André LaCasse as Edmund Swettenham, Jennifer Wainman-McNaught as Clara Swettenham and Vince McDermott who plays three characters: a newspaper boy, Rudy Scherz and Sgt. Mellors.

"A Murder is Announced" is a perfect example of an ensemble production. All the actors play a pivotal role in the quality of the final product, and in the case of the OOPS production, the final product is a play worthy of the $10 admission price.

You still have two more chances to enjoy "A Murder Is Announced" at 2:30 this afternoon and 7:30 tonight. The production takes place at the Shenkman Arts Cente in the cozy confines of the Richcraft Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

The Orleans Older Players production of Agatha Christie's 'A Murder Is Announced' includes two performances on Thursday, March 1at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Fred Sherwin/Photo

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)



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