Coronado Playhouse is thrilled to debut Murder on the Orient Express to San Diego County. The month of March is National Reading Month; bookworms, at-home detectives, and crime enthusiasts alike are sure to find plenty about this production to enjoy!
Murder on the Orient Express is one of multiple dozens of books from the Queen of Mystery herself, beloved authoress and best selling author of all time as her estate boasts, Agatha Christie. But this ain’t your mother’s typical murder mystery – Director Tyler Richards Hewes is updating this classic by changing the gender of several characters, including the iconic mustachioed Poirot. “Poirot, MacQueen, and Bouc are all male characters being played by female-identifying actors; the approaches that Heather Deerfield, Andra Acuna, and Sara Nash as Poirot, MacQueen, and Bouc, respectively, have deepened and enhanced each character.”
Hewes is no stranger to Agatha Christie or works by Ken Ludwig, the writer personally asked by Christie’s estate to adapt Murder on the Orient Express, having directed Ludwig’s plays in the past. Hewes is also very familiar with San Diego premieres having directed Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Treasure Island in 2019. Hewes is returning to Coronado Playhouse after last directing the San Diego premiere of Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III.
With the latest film adaptation of Death on the Nile hitting theaters soon and true crime documentaries and podcasts at an all-time high, there’s no shortage of thrills and chills to capture audiences’ attentions today in Coronado Playhouse’s Murder on the Orient Express. Nonetheless, how does Hewes plan on reinventing this tale for loyalists and newcomers? Well, there’s more to expect than gender-bent casting.
“The script calls for an ornate set with all sorts of physical detail to convey the opulence of the train and to pull the audience into the location. We don’t have the kind of budget that regional theatres have to be able to bring this to life, so we needed to go in the complete opposite direction – and that is where the Gorey design idea came in,” says Hewes. His Murder on the Orient Express is inspired by the aesthetic of Edward Gorey’s animated opening sequence on Murder on the Orient Express watching Masterpiece Theater’s Mystery! on PBS where Hewes first encountered the story as a child; the imagery never left his head. “Gorey’s illustration style, gothic-inspired pen and ink, along with the physical set for Mystery! – two-dimensional cut-outs of Gorey’s illustrations of headstones and urns, benches, and obelisks, struck me as a wonderful way of bringing Murder to the stage,” states Hewes “combining the linework style of Gorey along with images of the train from Harper’s Bazaar from the 1890s, Barron Henzel and Duane McGreggor – our graphic designers and charge artists – have been able to create a fully realized set that is bursting with detail but is able to be printed and is two dimensional.”
A fresh take on this story indeed. But what about those numerous changing locations? This posed an interesting challenge to the Director and his design team as well. The solution? Periaktois, of course. “The solution we arrived at was to go old school,” says Hewes smiling. Periaktois, a set element that originated in ancient Greek theatre, gives the design team multiple faces for different settings simply by turning the device stage left or stage right. “imagine an 8′ tall triangular prism turned on its end.”
Whether you come for the mystery narrative you know so well, the stylized updates, or to share a cocktail with a neighbor while you enjoy the show – Coronado Playhouse hosts cabaret-style seating with a bar – this production is bound to kill with audiences.
Murder on the Orient Express will perform March 18th – April 16th; Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. There is no performance on Easter Sunday 4/17. Tickets are $15 for any night’s performance available for a limited-time purchase as part of San Diego Theatre Week March 4th-13th using code SDTW22.
The oldest arts organization in Coronado, Coronado Playhouse, stands proudly among the best in the Community Theatre world of San Diego and constantly strives for excellence in its productions. They diligently strive to select diverse creative and production teams that will deliver smart and enlightening productions to CPH audiences.