Aldersgate Church Community Theater presents A Murder Is Announced, by Leslie Darbon, based on a novel by Agatha Christie. Eddie Page directs an enthusiastic cast in this charming “who-dun-it,” and it proves to be a good date-night choice for those in your life who enjoy a good mystery. True-crime enthusiasts, Escape Room fans, or anyone who appreciates a good challenge will enjoy this production.
Set Designers Shah Choudhury and Charles Dragonette transform the stage into a luxurious drawing room with a Victorian aesthetic. Costume design by Michelle Harris and hair and make-up by Natalie Turkavitch confirm this; the high-necked dresses and formal updos that adorn the characters come straight out of the 1930s. We’re in the home (named “Little Paddocks”) of Letitia Blacklock, played by Melissa Dunlap. Letitia is a wealthy woman who is hosting some distant relations: Kate Bierly and Justin Meyer as Julia and Patrick Simmons. If Letitia is the portrait of a composed, refined lady, her guests are the opposite — the siblings still behave like spoiled children, even though they’re both fully grown adults. Also living with Letitia is her childhood friend Dora Bunner (Kate Ives), a sweet (though aloof) woman whom they affectionately call “Bunny.” Bunny is a worrisome type, and her anxiety is thrown into overdrive when she reads a chilling announcement in the newspaper: “A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, 13th October, at Little Paddocks, at 6:30 pm. Friends accept this, the only intimation.”
Naturally, an announcement that someone in the home is going to be murdered later that evening has a staggering effect; Bunny is worked into a fretful tizzy, Letitia denounces it as a distasteful joke, and the restless siblings use it as an excuse to throw a party. What follows is an evening of chaotic unraveling; relationships, trusts, motives, and even identities are all called into question as the drama unfolds. Steve Rosenthal plays a no-nonsense Inspector Craddock, whose suspects include Letitia’s maid Mitzi (Melody Dillon), who has a questionable past and an explosive temper, and Clara and Edmund Swettenham (Janice Zucker and Matthew Lore), a mother/son neighborhood duo who seem a bit too curious over the newest town gossip. Finally, Patricia Smith does a great job with the character Miss Marple, a beloved Agatha Christie character who is known for being an expert “civilian sleuth.”
It should be kept in mind that this is a community theater production — the cast is not professional actors, and perfectly polished performances should not be expected. There are accents that could use some work, and a couple performances lean heavily toward the melodramatic, but overall, the cast works well together, especially considering that this isn’t the easiest play to take on. The plot changes rapidly, especially toward the suspenseful climax, and you’ll need a keen eye in order to keep up with all of the twists and turns. However, your focus and attention will be rewarded with a memorable evening of entertainment!
Aldersgate Church Community Theater’s production of A Murder Is Announced is a good show to see with a group of friends — discuss who you think the responsible party is during intermission, and see later who got it right!
Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
A Murder Is Announced plays through October 15, 2023, at Aldersgate Church Community Theater, 1301 Collingwood Road, Alexandria, VA. Tickets ($17.39 with service fee for senior, student, and active-duty military; and $20.57 with service fee for general admission) can be purchased online. Telephone service is temporarily unavailable.
COVID Safety: For your health and safety, we invite you to wear your mask while in the building. All cast and crew are fully vaccinated and boosted.
A Murder Is Announced
Play by Leslie Darbon
Adapted from Agatha Christie’s novel
Produced by Charles Dragonette and Marg Soroos
Directed by Eddie Page
Stage Manager: Susie Poole
Assisted by Deborah Gardner and Eric Jewett
Producers: Charles Dragonette and Marg Soroos
Set Design: Shah Choudhury and Charles Dragonette
Set Construction: Leah and Shah Choudhury
Lighting Design: Jeff Auerbach and Kimberly Crago
Assisted by Marg Soroos, De Nicholson Lamb
Costumes: Michelle Harris
Properties Design: Margaret Chapmam
Special Effects: Arthur Snow
Hair & Makeup: Natalie Turkavitch
Wardrobe: Margaret Snow
Set Painting: De Nicholson Lamb
Set Decoration: Charles Dragonette
Sound Design: Alan Wray
Photographer: Howard Soroos