‘Murder on the Nile’ at Aldersgate Church Community Theater

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Aldersgate Church Community Theater presents Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile, a suspenseful who-dun-it directed by Roland Branford Gomez, with original music composed and performed by Joseph Colombo.

Scene from Murder on the Nile. Courtesy Aldersgate Church Community Theater.
The cast of  ‘Murder in the Nile.’ Photo courtesy of Aldersgate Church Community Theater.

Scenic Designers John Downing and Bill Glickbarg transform the stage into a luxury paddle steamer, decked out with sweeping red velvet curtains and ornately-carved furniture. While the interior of the steamer (the Lotus) is beautifully detailed,  I particularly loved how the frame of the steamer itself was cleverly built around the stage, complete with a working water mill that was powered by a strategically-placed fan. Loren Nystrom and Rebecca Patton did a very impressive job with set construction! Lighting Designer Jeff Auerbach and Sound designer David Corriea work together to help set the tone, including soft blue hues and chirping crickets for a seemingly calm evening. However, looks can be deceiving…

We are in 1930’s Egypt, and as passengers aboard the exotic paddle Steamer Lotus, a trio of eager Beadsellers (hilarious performances by Solomie Mesfin, Tenbite Eshetu, and Lori Bonnette) try to sell their wares by rattling their beads inches from the passenger’s faces and shouting their sales pitches. Costume Designer Ashley Ammidon does a fine job placing us in the 1930’s with crisply-cut suits and era-appropriate dresses and hairstyles. The passenger list is an interesting one, including England’s richest young woman (Annie Bradley Ermlick as Kay Mostyn), her newly-eloped husband (Richard Isaacs as Simon Mostyn), and a surprise appearance by Kay’s guardian Canon Pennefather (Cal Whitehurst). The honeymooners are looking forward to a romantic trip up the Nile, but are horrified when they discover that a vengeful Jacqueline de Severac (Claudia Love Petty), Simon’s ex-fiancé and Kay’s former best friend, is also aboard.

The remaining passengers all have interesting backgrounds as well. The snobbish Miss Ffoliot-Ffoulkes (a performance by Bonnie Jourdan that gained a lot of laughs) and her put-upon niece, Christina Grant (Kirstin Apker) make an entertaining couple, as well as the mysterious and quick-witted Smith (Charles Lourens) and European physician Dr. Bessner (Dell Pendergrast). When a murder takes place, individual stories unfold to reveal hidden motives, dirty secrets, and surprising betrayals.  Aloft on the river, the murderer is definitely in their midst…but who is it?

For the most part, the ensemble works well together, though some performances could use a bit of polishing. I particularly enjoyed the performances by Bonnie Jourdan and Charles Lourens, and Charles Dragonette does a fine job as the overworked Steward, a role of few words but lots of expression. Like most Agatha Christie plays, the plot is dialogue-driven, so prepare to sit back and listen intently. Mid-October is a great time of year to indulge in a suspenseful production!

I’ve been lucky enough to have seen many Agatha Christie mysteries on stage…and I have yet to guess the murderer correctly. Will you? Take in a showing of Aldersgate Church Community Theater’s Murder on the Nile for a night of intrigue. suspense, and shock!

Scene from Murder on the Nile. Courtesy Aldersgate Church Community Theater.
Scene from ‘Murder on the Nile.’ Photo courtesy of Aldersgate Church Community Theater.

Running Time: Approximately 2 and a half hours, including two 15-minute intermissions.

Murder on the Nile plays through October 26, 2014 at Aldersgate Church – 1301 Collingwood Road, in Alexandria, VA. Purchase your tickets online.