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The Unexpected Guest

a Mystery
by Agatha Christie

COMPANY : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta on Ponce [WEBSITE]
ID# 4989

SHOWING : October 21, 2016 - November 13, 2016



On a dark and foggy night, a stranger seeks refuge in a neighboring house only to discover a harrowing scene: a dead man, a young wife, and a smoking gun. When the young woman confesses to murder, the stranger begins to weave her an alibi. But who really committed the crime? And who is each of them really protecting?

Director Liane Lemaster
Inspector Thomas Edwin Ashurst
Mrs. Warwick Pat Bell
Henry Angell John Coombs
Miss Bennett Lory Cox
Jan Warwick Dillion Everett
Laura Warwick Emma Greene
Julian Farrar Samuel Gresham
Michael Starkwedder Brandon Michael Mitchell
Sgt. Cadwallader Scott F. Rousseau
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The Protracted Guest
by playgoer
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
"The Unexpected Guest" is a pretty typical mystery by Agatha Christie. We have a murder early on; a collection of people are introduced, all of whom are revealed to have had motive and/or opportunity to commit the murder; and the setting is an English country home.

At Onstage Atlanta, Harley Gould’s set design is a knockout, accompanied by Chris Franken’s props to create a believable facsimile of a big game hunter’s study, taxidermied trophies bedecking the walls. The furnishings and layout accommodate the large cast as detectives interview all the inhabitants of and visitors to the country home. Together with Nancye Quarles Hilley’s costumes and Tom Gillespie’s lighting, this is a very good-looking production (aside from the dim area down center that becomes evident whenever anyone traverses the front of the stage from one side to the other).

Acting is good across the board. The corpse of Richard Warwick (Ian Gibson at the performance I attended) is appropriately still. Edwin Ashurst speaks in a beautiful British accent (unmatched by anyone else in the cast) as Inspector Thomas, and behaves with the authority one would expect from a police officer conducting a murder investigation. Scott Rousseau also gives a winning performance as his bumbling sidekick Sergeant Cadwallader, although he seems to be inserting ad libs that don’t quite fit into the rhythm of Agatha Christie’s dialogue. Brandon Michael Mitchell is fine, if a bit bland, as the unexpected visitor who discovers the body.

The primary suspects are also good. Emma Green, as Richard’s widow Laura, displays all the colors needed to flesh out an unhappy wife. Pat Bell adds an edge as Richard’s none-too-loving mother. John Coombs has the bearing and reserve of a proper servant, and Samuel David Gresham the debonair suavity of a politician next-door neighbor. Lory Cox does a good job of portraying a manipulative caretaker to Richard’s gun-obsessed, mentally defective half-brother, played nicely by Dillion Everett. All have reason to want Richard dead or to want to cover up the real murderer.

And that’s the big problem in the show: the process of putting each character in turn in the spotlight of suspicion becomes tedious. The ending twist is clever, playing off as it does on the "fake" alibi concocted at the start of the show, but the plot takes precedence over character, as it always seems to in Agatha Christie plays. The cleverness of the plot requires behavior that doesn’t always ring true. Add in an over-long running time, and this well-acted, beautifully designed show becomes a mediocre evening of entertainment. Liane LeMaster has directed a perfectly fine production, but hasn’t invested it with enough tension or variety to relieve the mediocrity of the whole. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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