There is no need for caffeine before heading to `Black Coffee'

October 11, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bowie Community Theatre opens its season with a pleasant bit of escapism in Agatha Christie's Black Coffee, a mystery guaranteed to keep an audience wide-awake.

Action in the thriller, which runs through Oct. 20, takes place in the drawing room of an upper-class English family.

Black Coffee, written in 1930, was Christie's first play. She created characters such as wealthy scientist and despotic patriarch Sir Claud Amory (Mike Dunlop); his son, Richard Amory, who is forced to live frugally; and Richard's sensitive and stressed Italian wife, Lucia.

Sir Claud's flighty niece Barbara lives in the Amory mansion, where Edward Raynor serves as Sir Claud's secretary and Miss Treadwell as his loyal housekeeper. Also in the drawing room as the play begins is Italian physician and house guest Dr. Carelli, who may be blackmailing Lucia.

A distinguished physicist, Sir Claud lost his secret formula for a new atomic explosive. While developing plans to retrieve it, he is murdered in the drawing room.

Sir Claud had invited the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to help find the formula. Poirot arrives on the scene with his assistant, Captain Arthur Hastings, after Sir Claud has been killed. Later, no-nonsense Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard arrives.

Poirot interviews family members and guests, discovering that few were devoted to Sir Claud.

Bowie Community Theatre's production features a stellar cast.

Debbie Samek plays loyal servant Treadwell with quiet dignity and a hint of humor. Shirley Panek conveys the agitation and distress of Lucia Amory. As Sir Claud's sister Caroline Amory, Joan MacDonnell combines an affectionate concern for family members with an appealing eccentricity.

As Dr. Carelli, Larry Champion is a combination of charm and greed. Michael Gilmore is believable as the constricted Henry Amory, simultaneously guilt-ridden and relieved that he'll finally have access to his father's fortune.

Tricia Cramer is a blend of naivete and sophistication as Sir Claud's flapper niece Barbara Amory. Greg Coale plays Sir Claud's competent secretary Edward Raynor with cool efficiency. And Robert Sams is believable as Inspector Poirot's dedicated assistant, who is inclined to jump to premature conclusions.

D.L. Sams is outstanding and perfectly cast as Poirot. Sams gives a dynamic performance, spouting rapid-fire dialogue in an accent that brings Poirot to life.

Every member of the cast adopts an accent that seems natural and never wavers.

Suzanne Reams' costumes lend stylish authenticity to the production. Except for housekeeper Treadwell, the female players have several costumes, each lovelier than the last.

Craig Allen Mummey designed an authentic-looking set that works well, and Garrett Hyde does his usual first-rate job with lighting design.

Tickets: 301-805-0219.

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