Murder on the Orient Express
Through Feb. 20 -- Des Moines Playhouse, $29-47
Accents, set design and murder, oh my!
I spent a cozy evening at the Des Moines Playhouse with my partner and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon enjoying the absolute delight of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. On opening night, about 10 minutes to curtain, the theater was almost packed. This was encouraging, as it’s no secret that live events have seen a dip in attendance since the start of the pandemic. I took this as a sign that we were in for a treat, and I was not let down.
The play takes place during the winter of 1934. Passengers from all over the world board the Orient Express for a luxurious night of traveling from Istanbul to Western Europe. But when a snowstorm hits and the train gets stalled, a murder takes place. Good thing Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot (pronounced hair-KYEWL pwa-ROW, according to the playbill) is on board! He must crack the case before the murderer claims another victim.
Readers of Christie’s work know the quirky characters are a driving force behind the novels’ mass appeal. The Playhouse cast did not disappoint on this front, but here were a few of my favorite performances.
Playhouse veteran Cedric Fevrier shines brightly as Hercule Poirot, embodying every trait I’ve ever imagined belonging to the detective. As I read Poirot’s tales in the future, it will almost certainly be Fevrier’s rendition I see.
Katie Saldanha makes her Playhouse debut in this production as Countess Andrenyi. Saldanha brought all of the grace and stateliness expected of a diplomat to the role and she was a pleasure to watch. Additionally, in a production that relies heavily on accents, Saldanha’s performance is a crown jewel.
And of course, how could a Midwesterner not fall in love with Cate Miller’s rendition of Helen Hubbard? The iron-willed, whiskey-loving Minnesotan certainly captured my heart and I prepared myself to chuckle every time Miller took the stage.
While we’re calling folks out for their excellent work, I’d be remiss not to mention Scenic/Projection Designer Nicholas Amundson. Where stage transitions usually require a suspension of disbelief from the audience, Amundson’s did not. Every set piece was intentional and beautiful. The structures moved from scene to scene gracefully, and Amanda Pichler’s lighting design took everything up a notch, leaving me in awe as the theater seemed to fill up with snow.
Although the story is centered around a murder, the tone remains pretty light-hearted. If you’re looking for a show to make you ponder your world-view, this probably isn’t it. But if you’re looking for something that makes you want to pull out your detective notebook and solve the crime, you’ve got a great night waiting for you at the Des Moines Playhouse.
Murder on the Orient Express runs through Feb. 20, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $29-47. Masks are required.