Clues fall fast and thick from the outset as a diverse group of international travelers boards a train ride out of Istanbul in the Lewiston Civic Theatre production of “Murder on the Orient Express.”
A stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel of the same name, the show runs the first two weekends of April at the old Lewiston High School auditorium on Ninth Avenue.
This is the third mainstage show for the civic theater since it resumed live productions in the fall with “The Addams Family” in October-November and “Blithe Spirit” in February. The large and experienced cast features several Lewiston Civic Theatre veterans, including Paul Segren in the lead role as master detective Hercule Poirot, who is tasked with solving an onboard murder after the train is stranded by a snow drift.
Unlike most of the theater’s mainstage presentations, “Murder on the Orient Express” is not a musical. Perhaps the most distinctive auditory strength of this production is the effort that’s been put into mastering foreign and regional accents, lending authenticity to the story’s setting amid a multinational group of strangers flung together on a train ride. Actors on set at the rehearsals often make a point of speaking in their stage accents even when out of character.
“Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery. This is one of her greatest stories and one of her greatest characters, and this is his greatest case,” said Segren, who had experience with his character’s French accent thanks to his participation in a past production of “Beauty and the Beast.” “It’s just chock full of interesting characters — one of the reasons we push the accents and the dialects.”
Danielle Abrams, who plays Countess Helena Andrenyi, said director Amanda Marzo emphasized the Hungarian accent as a key element of her role and pointed her to examples in film to study and practice; Abrams used an old Dracula movie as her chief model.
The set features a life-sized wooden train compartment, and a smoke machine and auditory effects will help simulate the onboard atmosphere for audience members.
Marzo, who moved from California to Pullman in the mid-2010s and then to Lewiston in 2019, is directing her first production with Lewiston Civic Theatre. She previously taught acting classes with the theater and appeared in several of its shows, most recently as Alice Beineke in “The Addams Family.”
“Someone was actually supposed to direct it for me, and they dropped out, and I was asked because I showed interest last year,” Marzo said. “I guess things just sort of fell into place, really.”
Marzo stressed that the stage play offers an interpretation of the story quite distinct from that of the 2017 film adaptation many may have seen.
“This is a totally different version of ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ ” she said. “I don’t think anyone’s seen this version. It’s almost like a musical comedy; there’s creepy scenes, sad moments, but hilarious moments also.
“Just come and enjoy. (It’s) the classic Agatha Christie on stage — we’re bringing a whole train onstage. Come see the show.”
Tickets may be purchased at the door or online at lctheatre.org.
Wendt, a self-styled jack-of-all-trades who is active as an area sports writer, high school tennis coach, actor and musician, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Murder on the Orient Express” performed by the Lewiston Civic Theatre.
WHEN: 7 p.m. April 1-2 and 8-9; 2 p.m. April 3 and 10.
WHERE: Normal Hill campus (the old Lewiston High School), 1114 Ninth Ave., Lewiston.
TICKETS: Adults, $15; seniors, veterans, students, children, $10.
OF NOTE: A variety of accents realistically portrayed; life-sized onstage train compartment.