Katie Laris

Katie Laris

The irrepressible Theatre Group at City College (SBCCTG) will offer, as the next production in its 75th season, Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” directed by Katie Laris, with scenic and lighting designed by Patricia L. Frank, costumes by Pamela Shaw, and sound by Barbara Hirsch.

The cast includes Leesa Beck, Justin Davanzo, Emma-Jane Huerta, Dalina Klan, Haley Klan, Sanford Jackson, McKenna Kline, Will Muse, Mircea Oprea, Jenna Scanlon, Tiffany Story, Matthew Tavianini, Johnny Waaler and Raymond Wallenthin.

SBCCTG offers the following synopsis of the play: “Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, the passengers rely on detective Hercule Poirot to identify the murderer — in case he or she decides to strike again.”

Aside from Agatha Christie (1890-1976), there have been few, if any, writers of any gender who have written a score or so best-selling novels (to date, she has been outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare) and half as many hit plays, including “The Mousetrap,” the longest running stage production in history.”

(Somerset Maugham and John Galsworthy come the closest, in that they both enjoyed modest theatrical successes, but they are both remembered mostly for their novels.)

Christie’s novels are so compulsively readable, and her plays so compellingly watchable, that she makes the whole writing exercise look easy. Perhaps it was, for her.

Christie was, above all, a storyteller. She did not excell in the delineation of character; her only memorable creations are her sleuths, especially Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple (a confession: I love Miss Marple and can just tolerate Poirot, the fussy Belgian — the great David Suchet, who made a hit with Poirot on the BBC, says his children hated it when he was playing the character).

But, in unpacking a mystery, Christie had virtually no peers.

Christie was also brilliant at abstracting elements of her own life as a backdrop for the story. For instance, in 1930, she married the notable archaeologist, Sir Max Mallowan, and went on several digs with him, and several of her stories have digs as background, such as: “Death on the Nile” and “They Came to Baghdad.”

In 1946, a reporter asked Christie about her likes and dislikes. She told him: “My chief dislikes are crowds, loud noises, gramophones and cinemas. I dislike the taste of alcohol and do not like smoking. I do like sun, sea, flowers, traveling, strange foods, sports, concerts, theatres, pianos, and doing embroidery.”

“Murder on the Orient Express” plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, March 2-19 in the Garvin Theatre on SBCC West Campus (900 block of Cliff Drive). The Sunday, March 6 performance will be live-captioned for the hearing-impaired.

Tickets range from $18-$26 with discounts for seniors and students and can be purchased by calling the Box Office, 805-965-5935, or online at www.theatregroupsbcc.com.

As for COVID-19 rules, City College says: “We are excited to welcome people back. The current COVID protocol is: masks required inside the theatre and building (we recommend N95 or KN95 masks), for everyone 5 years and older, presentation of proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance, along with a current photo ID.”

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at gerald.carpenter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.