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By Karen Bennett Herr
For the Beacon 

All aboard for Driftwood Players' 'Orient Express' | Theater Review


Last updated 9/28/2023 at 10:42am

Dale Sutton

Driftwood Players' cast highlights Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express." From left: Kim Ferse, Skye Stafford, Karli Reinbold, Landon Whitbread, Carol Richmond, Elora Coble, David Hayes.

Driftwood Players opens its 65th season with the Agatha Christie classic, "Murder on the Orient Express," skillfully directed by David Alan Morrison with assistant directorship from Paul Fleming.

The play, adapted by Ken Ludwig from the original Christie novel, takes place in 1934 aboard the Orient Express as it travels from Istanbul to Western Europe. It features a cast of colorful, quirky characters, not least of which is the charming, eccentric Hercule Poirot.

Not far into the journey, one of the passengers is brutally murdered and Poirot must put his detective prowess to work to unravel the truth. Once the pieces have come together, his deep reverence for the law is challenged by this play's unbelievable culminating scenario.

Driftwood's production is a triumph on all fronts. The production team (a long list of extremely talented folks) has created an eye-catching train interior with clever transitional capacity, well deserving of the audience's spontaneous burst of applause at the first scene change on opening night.

Props, lighting, audio, and cinematic elements enhance the ingenious scenic design by Brian Fletcher. The result is just the right amount of fullness for an aesthetic that complements, rather than competes with, the actors.

And speaking of the actors – there is not a weak link among this stellar cast of 11.

David Hayes as Poirot, with his tidy mustache and persnickety manner, carries his role with impeccable precision. He has mastered the nuance of his principled, iconic character who feels pulled by forces of empathy and ethics.

Kim Ferse, as Helen Hubbard, is suitably over-the-top with her Min-nes-ohhh-tan dialect and her penchant for accumulating husbands and bourbon.

Her artful use of physical humor – big, expressive movements from her lithe frame – provides a steady comic pulse to the unfolding story.

And Skye Stafford, as the beautiful Countess Andrenyi, exudes strength and poise – it is no surprise that her character catches the eye of the usually unruffled master detective.

Rounding out the cast with further excellence are Brian Harper (Monsieur Bouc), Karli Reinbold (Mary Debenham), Giovanna Cossalter Walters (Hector MacQueen), Brandon Jepson (Michel the Conductor), Carol Richmond (Princess Dragomiroff), Elora Coble (Greta Ohlsson), Landon Whitbread (Colonel Arbuthnot), and Thomas A. Glass (Samuel Ratchett).

Most of the characters have distinguishable accents, and all are authentic-sounding thanks to the guidance of dialect coach Grace Helmcke.

Costuming by Audrey Herold is right on point – smart, attractive, and true to the period.

To the producers, directors, actors, and production team, a hearty "well done" for this fantastic journey of a play.

And to local theater-goers, a big nudge to hop on board for a delightful ride. The show runs through Oct. 8.



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