I do love a good thriller. Even if you know whodunnit from the book or myriad adaptations, this one is worth seeing. Ken Ludwig has given us an excellent adaption that is both true to the book and compelling on stage.
It is a wonderful production that successfully treads the high wire of camp, knowing-performance and real tension. Jesica Fisch, (fresh off directing the enchanting Dear Jack, Dear Louise at Northlight Theater) brings her Christie experience to a fine result here this time too. She entirely succeeds in her hope that this production ‘pulls you in, keeps your maddening frustration just at bay, and ultimately delights you with the euphoria of of well-earned solution.’
The play opens to a set of a beautifully lit Turkish cafe and quickly takes us to an entirely convincing train exterior and 1930s platform. It only gets better from here. The Orient Express herself is, quite rightly, the star of this show. Gasps and applause greeted every rotation of the stage, revealing yet more exquisite opulence. The tight quarters of this luxury were well communicated, so the audience feels both the expansive, expensive finishes at the same time as the comically narrow corridors and mean proportions of the sleeping quarters.
There were many comic turns, the prizes going to M. Poirot of course, and the broadway-belting and Charleston-dancing Helen Hubbard. Janet Ulrich Brooks plays her with proper excess and pathos too, a range I wasn’t expecting in such an old hat of a play. Larry Yando is a wonderful Poirot. Not the short round fellow I imagine, yet still able to look frail and small when lifted by the lapels by the very tall Ryan Imhoff as Colonel Arbuthnot. His accent is as outrageous as you want, but not distractingly so. He has the quiet gravitas of the intellectual detective along with Gallic (Belgian!) shrugs and guttural sounds that are more expressive than any script.
For so many two-dimensional and largely unlikable characters, the whole evening was surprisingly engaging. I have not seen the story told for laughs before, not while keeping the drama going.
For a consummate night of entertainment that keeps you guessing and involved, get along to the Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook. Playing now through October 23, 2022. For tickets call 630 530 0111.