Charming, Fast-Paced 'Murder on the Links' Earns its Applause
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, April 26, 2023
A body in a bunker, a shipping barge to Santiago, a Belgian sleuth, and a dizzying array of potential suspects take the stage in North Coast Repertory Theatre’s world premiere Murder on the Links, running through May 21.
Written and directed by Stephen Dietz, the Agatha Christie detective fiction has been reconstructed as a comedy which features the famed detective Hercule Poirot, his confidante and colleague Captain Hastings, and a bevy of characters played by four adept performers... as they proclaim in the exposition scene, 20-odd individuals. As Poirot and Hastings arrive to assist potential client Paul Renauld, they discover that he has been found dead, stabbed in the back with a knife belonging to his wife. Investigator Girard of the Sûreté begins to flesh out the mystery, wagering that he will solve it before Poirot. As motives and suspects appear, a second body is found.
Stepping into the role of the lead, Hercule Poirot, is actor and director Omri Schein. In this iteration, Poirot is presented as a caricature, complete with muttering, minute hand movements, a penguin-like walk, and personality idiosyncrasies. Schein is consistent and quite funny. Opposite him is the effervescent Kim Morgan Dean as Captain Hastings. She is earnest, youthful, and charismatic in the role and, whether falling in love with a stranger, trying to keep up with Poirot’s mental gymnastics, or recounting mistaken events surrounding the crime, is utterly charming throughout the production.
Joining this duo are four ensemble members who also take advantage of opportunities to shine; the two female tracks are played by Jennifer Erdmann and Jessica Mosher and the male tracks are filled by Brian Mackey and Matthew Salazar-Thompson.
One stellar component of this particular show is the sound design, which has been flawlessly composed and executed by Robertson Witmer to incorporate tonal shifts, overlapping ambient noises, and the key sounds crucial to plot points at the various locales. These elements are elegantly applied throughout the show, and well situated in balance to one another.
The production also takes place on an interesting stage by resident scenic designer Marty Burnett which features a prominent corner staircase in the center, window frames throughout, and walls on each side that both rotate and feature hidden windows and doors. The space is well lit with complementary background washes by lighting designer Matthew Novotny and the characters are smartly dressed in costumes by Elisa Benzoni.
While occasionally shows have a few wrinkles to smooth out during opening weekend, that was absolutely not the case here; Murder on the Links, in its opening production, was quick, witty, tightly performed, and quite enjoyable.
Love Agatha Christie? You won’t want to miss this one. Murder on the Links runs through the end of its extension on May 21 at North Coast Repertory Theatre.