SARASOTA — The Asolo’s production of “Murder on the Orient Express” uses the latest technology to take its audience back in time.
Today’s Venice-Simplon Orient Express remains probably the priciest train in the world, with its Lalique panels decorating the walls of the dining car, Arveda products in the bathing areas and brocade upholstery on dining car seats as well as on the berths in the passenger compartments.
The creative team at Asolo Rep used all the latest technology to preserve that style and, despite a murder with eight stab wounds in the victim, take those of us in the audience back to a kinder, gentler time when things like that should not have happened on such an elegant train.
But it did. That is the stuff of this classic play by Agatha Christie which remains so mysteriously entertaining while also puzzling to those of us in the audience who are trying to solve the murder mystery before it is revealed to us.
We meet the cast in a hotel the day before the adventure is due to begin. We also meet Hercule Poirot (James Devita), the famous sleuth who naturally will solve this next adventure too, even if he is just on vacation.
As it turns out Poirot is not the only one puzzled by things on this train at this time. So is Monsiour Bouc (David Breitbarth) who cannot understand why the train is full at that time of the year.
Not only is it full but with what seems an odd collection of passengers that seem not be to be related to one another and yet, as it turns out they. There is a a Russian princess (Princess Dragonoff) played by Peggy Roeder in a manner that borders on camp but is totally delightful.
There is a woman from Minnesota by the name of Gret Ohlsson (Alex Pelletiier) who nails the Minnesota accent better than nay three five-generation natives could to.
There is a little girl named Daisy Armostrong (Cora Messer) whose abduction and subsequent murder as a young child is somehow entwined with a surprising number of characters on the train.
We know that somehow the little Belgian detective will solve the mystery but the real stuff of this marvelous production is the acting by the talented cast and the setting, that glorious train made all the more so with today’s theatrical technology, including a simple turntable but very well done videos that literally bring that elegant train to life as it turns to reveal various aspects of the elegant train rolling along through snowy conditions and a rather odd cast of characters .... the stuff of Agatha Christie.
It is made even better by Ken Ludwig who adapted Agatha Christie’s orignal story and director Peter Amster who, with a twinkle in his eye, can take this classic story and cast of characters and make it fresh and new with a serious plot to solve yet with some humorous incidents as this elegant traveling hotel covers the miles.
Designer Paul Tate is the genius behind the train car.
Tracey Dorman is the talent behind the glamorous clothing of the passengers in this most elegant part of the train.
Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” continues in rotating repertory in the Mertz Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, through March 8.
For show times and ticket prices, call the box office at 941-351-8000 or visit asolorep.org