The first thing you notice about the Guthrie’s sumptuous adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is the gorgeous Art Deco set. Recreating the glamor of a luxury train winding through snowy mountain passages in interwar Yugoslavia, the production features a combination of dynamic practical and digital effects. Most notably, as the scene transitions from the dining car to the sleeper car, the entire set glides smoothly across the stage, revealing an entirely new set that seamlessly moves back and forth as the story dictates. From that point on, you really feel like you’re on the train with these actors, who breathe so much life into their characters that you can feel the claustrophobia building as they try to resolve the mystery.
This story is nothing without a rock solid performance of Christie’s renowned Detective Hercule Poirot. Fortunately Andrew May’s charming, exasperated, meticulous performance as the Belgian detective is fully realized and thoroughly endearing. It would be a delight to see May, who makes his Guthrie debut, reprise the role should the theater stage any other of Christie’s mysteries (perhaps Death in the Clouds?) Poirot’s principle foil in this story–Helen Hubbard–is played by the indomitable Sally Wingert, who is clearly having the time of her life.
As the mystery builds to its great reveal, the actors recreate flashbacks lit only by a single spotlight, while Poirot narrates the clues that lead to his conclusions. It’s a simple effect, but it feels completely natural in the moment.
The stage adaptation, directed by Risa Braining, blends subtle humor with intense drama, creating a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish.
Photo by Dan Norman