‘Murder on Nile’ is deadly at Coach House
By David Ritchey
WEST AKRON — “Murder on the Nile” is a killer in the Coach House Theatre.
Those of us who regularly attend performances in Coach House Theatre can brag that we’ve seen most of Agatha Christie’s mysteries. But after seeing “Murder on the Nile,” I’m not sure we have anything to brag about. This production is long and tedious, and that’s the fault of Dame Christie.
Those who’ve seen the movie “Murder on the Nile” saw a different script. The movie has the addition of Hercule Poirot, Christie’s well-loved detective. Of course, the movie had a star-studded cast that made murder a bit more fun.
Christie’s plays take a long time to introduce the characters and provide the exposition needed to get the audience through the murders and to the logical and appropriate solution to the mystery. Usually, Christie sets her plays in a remote locale, and the characters are cut off from the world. That’s true in “Murder on the Nile.” The characters live and die on the paddle steamer Lotus on the Nile between Shellal and Wadi Halfa.
The characters include a minister, a physician, a cranky old woman and her niece and a famous pair of newlyweds.
The newlyweds are Kay Mostyn
(Amanda Davis) and her new husband, Simon Mostyn (Charles
Leonard). Kay has been the talk of English society.
This beautiful, wealthy and socially prominent young
woman has married for love, tossing away the proposals
from rich and titled Englishmen.
She married a man who is penniless, but handsome and
But, lo, another passenger is
onboard. Jacqueline De Severac (Lisa Shay) was engaged
to Simon and was Kay’s best friend. Kay took Simon
from Jacqueline, and now Jacqueline is stalking the
newlyweds on their honeymoon.
Jacqueline serves her revenge
slowly and deliberately.
The minister was Kay’s
guardian after the death of her parents. He continues
to ask her for money for his charities.
To tell much more of the
plot would reveal the killed and
the killer. The bottom line is that someone should have
hired a good editor for Christie.
Back at the Coach House, Anthony
Harding (scenic designer) created the observation salon
of the paddle steamer. Harding managed to make the room
big and grand enough to accommodate a large cast. This
is remarkable because the set has only two doors. (Murder
mysteries seem to need more than two doors for the typical
great deal of coming and going and discovering.)
Jonathan Fletcher (costumes)
has the women in elegant and stage-worthy dresses.
The dressing gown Miss ffoliot-ffoulkes wears almost
stopped the show on opening night. The theater echoed
with gasps at the layer on top of layer of material
Jim Fippin (director) did an
excellent job of helping the cast develop distinct characters.
And he and the cast let the tensions build from murder
to murder to the solving of the crimes. But they are
swimming upstream against the flood of words that the
playwright used to set up the action of the play.
Unfortunately, the cast is uneven
in abilities and in acting style. Some would say that
not everyone is in the
same production. Christie’s mysteries require
an acting style that would be appropriate for a pre-World
War II story. Keep in mind that most of the characters
are English and they’re rich, bored and class-conscious.
But the main problem with “Murder
on the Nile” is the old, long, dated script.
The time has come for Coach House
Theatre’s board to look for more contemporary
“Murder on the Nile”
continues through June 24. For tickets, call (330) 434-7741.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D.
in communications and is a professor of communications
at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American
Theatre Critics Association.
From left, Chris Boros, Judith Campbell and Linda Graske star in Coach House Theatre’s production of “Murder on the Nile.”
Photo: Michael Kermizis