In the quiet, little village of Chipping Cleghorn, an announcement in the local newspaper indicates that a murder will take place in the home of Miss Letitia Blacklock at 6:30 p.m. that evening. As Blacklock, her lodgers, and curious visitors begin to arrive, tensions mount and everyone wonders if it’s all a silly joke.
But there is no joke as the victim proves to be an unexpected visitor and not Blacklock or one of the local villagers. Enter Inspector Craddock, who is joined by amateur sleuth Miss Marple in the Agatha Christie mystery “A Murder Is Announced,” performing Sept. 29 through Oct. 15 at Aldersgate Church Community Theater.
“Agatha Christie is the second most bestselling author of all time,” said director Eddie Page. “She is second only to Shakespeare. Her endings are always completely shocking with an unexpected twist. ‘A Murder Is Announced’ is no different with her typical ingenious combination of crime and psychoanalysis. She is the absolute queen of suspense.”
Christie’s “A Murder Is Announced” was first published in 1950 and touted at the time as the author’s 50th novel. It features the well-known female sleuth, Miss Marple, stepping in to solve the mysterious murder.
“Miss Marple remains the most cherished fictional character."
— Director Eddie Page
The award-winning Page directs a stellar cast that includes Patricia Smith as the iconic Miss Marple.
“Miss Marple looks like a harmless, friendly old lady, therefore, she can move about easily listening to and talking to many people in order to solve a mystery,” said Smith. “She is curious and clever, and not easily fooled. Don’t underestimate her.”
Miss Marple uncovers that Blacklock is due to inherit a huge sum of money, but who would stand to gain from her murder? In a classic Agatha Christie tale of concealed identities, desperation, mixed motives, and another death, it takes a risky strategy to uncover the true identity of the murderer.
“Mysteries derived from Agatha Christie promise amusement while testing the audience’s powers of observation,” said producer Charles Dragonette. “Eccentricity and evasiveness abound and as you chuckle at them, remember - someone did it!”
The novel was adapted for the stage in 1977 by Leslie Darbon and premiered in London’s West End that same year.
“This adaption never once strays from the typical Agathia Christie style that I have come to love,” added Page. “Miss Marple remains the most cherished fictional character, yet rarely appears in stage productions. Miss Marple was, in part, based on Agatha Christie's own grandmother, and her grandmother's friends.”
Melissa Dunlap plays Letitia Blacklock, who has opened her home to family and friends only to find it the location of the announced murder.
“Letty Blacklock delights in providing a safe haven for her dear friend Bunny and three young adults who need a home,” said Dunlap. “She welcomes neighbors and visiting friends, including Miss Marple, and is dismayed that such a ghastly thing would happen in her house.”
Steve Rosenthal plays Inspector Craddock, a 65-year-old chief inspector who almost despite himself becomes driven to solve the mystery regarding the death of Blacklock’s intruder.
“It was a challenge having to interact with so many suspects,” said Rosenthal. “Each interviewee requires a different tactic in order to pry out their secrets so that my character can solve the case.”
The ensemble cast features Justin Meyer as the cocky and irreverent Patrick Simmons, Kate Bierly as the snarky and smug Julia Simmons, Patrick’s sister and niece to Letty Blacklock, and Matthew Lore, who is making his return to the stage as writer Edmund Swettenham.
“People adore the writings of Dame Agatha Christie,” said Page. “Things are never as they appear. The audience should pay very close attention to the nonverbal actions of each and every actor since absolutely no actor is immune from suspicion.”
Added Dunlap, “Agatha Christie has created quite the ride and I want the audience to enjoy each moment.”
“A Murder Is Announced” is playing Sept. 29 through Oct. 15 at Aldersgate Church Community Theater, 1301 Collingwood Road, Alexandria, VA 22308. For tickets or more information visit www.acctonline.org.