TR Robertson – “Murder on the Links”, currently on the North Coast Repertory stage, is a hilarious, fast-paced “whodunit” filled with jealousy, mystery, constantly changing accusations and dueling detectives that will leave you guessing until the end, oh yeah, there’s also two murders. This cleverly written play, by Steven Dietz, is taken from the novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. The amazing thing about this play is there are six actors in the play and four of these actors play a total of 23 characters. The other two play Christie’s immortal Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and his companion Captain Hastings. “Murder on the Links” was Christie’s third mystery novel and the second to feature Detective Hercule Poirot.
The opening of “Murder on the Link” is a world premiere for award winning Playwright/Director Steven Dietz. He has directed four other plays at North Coast Rep and numerous other plays at regional theatres throughout the United States as well as international productions in over twenty-five countries.
Photos by Aaron Rumley
The original plot of Christie’s novel finds Detective Poirot receiving a letter from Paul Renauld, asking him to come to his home in Merlinville-Sur-Mer, France. The letter intrigues Poirot and he and his companion, Captain Hastings, journey to the French countryside home on a golf resort, only to find the owner, Renauld has been murdered. He was found face down in a grave on the edge of the golf course, killed by a knife in the back. From this beginning, an array of characters and suspects will go through the interrogation of Hercule Poirot, leading to a final discovery of who killed Renauld, and another victim.
With this as a premise, Dietz wanted to keep the overall plot intact, except adding a unique twist, making this murder mystery a comedy. Further adding to this twist, taking the large number of characters in Christie’s novel, and having the majority of the characters performed by only 4 actors, other than the two leads. To help the audience understand what is going on, Poirot’s companion Captain Hastings becomes a narrator for most of the play, filling in details that the mystery would have covered. The cast of the play begins the performance by explaining what their roles would be so the audience would have some understanding of what they are seeing unfold.
The versatility of the actors, their incredible timing, great facial expressions, and performances make this one of the funniest plays North Coast Rep has produced on their stage. Each of the four, tasked with numerous characters from the novel, had to not only become the character, but bring a different personality and accent for that character.
San Diego actor Omri Schein, playing Belgian Detective Hercule Poirot, is outstanding in his interpretation of Poirot, using an over accentuated accent, an almost Charlie Chaplin like walk and wonderful facial expressions to present the precocious detective. Schein has written several plays, performed in numerous regional theaters and directed several plays. Playing Poirot’s companion, Captain Hastings, and making her NC Rep debut is Kim Morgan Dean. As Hastings, Morgan not only has to deal with Poirot and his unusual investigative style, but also serves as the narrator for the play, speaking to the audience to make sure everyone can follow the complicated plot.
As well as the incredible performances by Omri Schein and Kim Morgan Dean, four wonderfully versatile and high energy actors weave a fast-paced performance using a multitude of coat, hat and cap, accent and prop changes presenting 23 characters throughout the 2-hour comedy. Matthew Salazar-Thompson played 7 characters, Jennifer Erdmann played 7 characters, Brian Mackey played 4 characters and Jessica Mosher played 5 characters. In one of the funniest scenes, at the beginning of Act II, using the hat or cap that some of their characters wore, a fast-changing update of what happened in Act I, narrated by Captain Hastings, kept the audience “in the loop” of the story being told on stage.
This is a very funny comedy full of twists and turns with amazing performances by veteran actors that will bring a smile to your day. It is a definitely do not miss production by NC Rep. Tickets for “Murder on the Links” are available at 858-481-1055 or go to www.northcoastrep.org. North Coast Repertory Theatre is located at 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach.