The Alley Theatre’s latest “Summer Chills” production is Mark Shanahan’s fresh adaptation of Agatha Christie’s charming The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Set in the early 1920s, the play is classic Christie with plenty of plot twists and misdirection.
There’s an ensemble cast of suspicious and colorful characters, among them the recently retired detective Hercule Poirot (played by David Sinaiko). When Roger Ackroyd (Shawn Hamilton), the richest man in the village, is murdered, Poirot is called into action.
Poirot has plenty of helpers—and suspects. There’s James Sheppard (Christopher Salazar), the dead man’s doctor, and Caroline Sheppard (Elizabeth Bunch), the doctor’s sister and village gossip queen. Inspector Raglan (David Rainey) is the bumbling policeman—a regular character in Christie’s plots.
The victim’s money-hungry houseguests and relatives are also on hand: his friend (Brandon Hearnsberger), sister-in-law (Susan Koozin), niece (Melissa Molano), and foster son (Dylan Godwin). Ackroyd’s household staff round out the cast: his butler (Todd Waite), maid (Skyler Sinclair), and secretary (Melissa Pritchett).
Roger Ackroyd was skillfully adapted for the stage and directed by Mark Shanahan. Most importantly, his casting of David Sinaiko is pitch-perfect as the persnickety Poirot. (Get that wrong, and the whole play is doomed.) Here, Sinaiko is flawless as he alternates between funny, fastidious, and frighteningly insightful.
Christopher Salazar’s very solid Dr. Sheppard holds his own against Sinaiko’s masterful Poirot. Sheppard acts as a narrator for the play. He’s extremely likable—unlike his sister Caroline.
Elizabeth Bunch’s Caroline is nosy and noisy. She knows all the gossip, rumors, and scuttlebutt about everyone for miles around. And what she doesn’t know, she makes up. She’s willing to repeat everything to everyone, whether they want to hear it or not. Of course, Agatha Christie didn’t mean for us to like Caroline, so Bunch makes sure we don’t.
Brandon Hearnsberger, recently seen in Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Jersey Lily and Cowboy Bob, continues to show his expansive range here. He’s a completely different character in each production (very un-Tom Cruise).
Melissa Molano, Dylan Godwin, and Skyler Sinclair give lovely performances. Melissa Pritchett plays the secretary as stiff and rather repressed, just as Christie meant her to be. And David Rainey slips into the role of the clueless inspector easily enough.
But it’s Susan Koozin and Todd Waite, as the greedy sister-in-law and the old-school butler, respectively, who steal the show. Koozin plays over-the-top without overacting (a neat trick) and Waite proves that there are no small parts, only small actors. He is a consummate professional as the rock-steady manservant. They are both a joy to watch onstage.
Don’t miss the ActOut pre-show reception on Thursday, August 10. The event promises to be a night of fun and excitement as guests will get the opportunity to mingle with like-minded individuals and enjoy cocktails and light refreshments before the show. This pre-curtain event starts at 6:00 PM and is FREE with your ticket to the Thursday night performances listed below. Each production begins at 7:30 p.m. To buy ActOUT tickets, required for this event, purchase online or call Guest Services at 713.220.5700, then enter 1.
WHAT: Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
WHEN: Through August 27
WHERE: Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave.