Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, is thrilled to announce that Agatha Christie’s endearing detective, Miss Marple, will make her Peninsula Players debut when she searches for a killer in “A Murder is Announced.” This gripping whodunit by Leslie Darbon performs July 10 to July 28 and is based on Christie’s famous novel, in which The Times Literary Supplement said Christie had several surprises up her sleeve.
An unexpected announcement in a small-town newspaper advertisement reads: “A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 13th, at Little Paddocks – at 6:30 p.m.” Is it a joke? A party invitation? Unable to resist, a group of curious villagers gather at Miss Blacklock’s Victorian house at the appointed time. Suddenly, the lights go out, a gun is fired, and they become witnesses to a shocking murder.
What follows is a classic Christie puzzle of mixed motives, concealed identities, fascinating characters, multiple murders and a determined Inspector grimly following the twists and turns. Fortunately, Miss Marple is on hand to unravel a complex series of relationships and events. With some risk to herself, she embarks on finding the solution and faces a dramatic confrontation with a killer.
“A Murder is Announced” was publicized as Christie’s 50th novel and was published in 1950 in both Britain and the United States. Leslie Darbon adapted the novel into a stage play in 1977, and it made its debut at the Theatre Royal in Brighton, by Peter Saunders, the producer who brought Christie’s “The Mousetrap” to the stage.
Peninsula Players has performed more than 500 plays in its 84 seasons, yet this is the first time Miss Marple is involved in a mystery presented at the theater.
“The unflappable Miss Marple creates order out of chaos,” Artistic Director Greg Vinkler said. “At a polite distance, she begins to conduct a private investigation employing the tools of her trade. She has acute hearing, which allows her to overhear conversations; her needle-sharp eyes catch every detail and discrepancy, and her friendly manner disarms suspects over fragrant cups of Earl Grey, where she punctuates other sentences with ‘Oh, how kind’ and ‘Oh, really.’”
Penny Slusher, who charmed Door County audiences in “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” “Chapatti” and Christie’s “The Hollow,” will portray the sharp spinster, Miss Marple. Slusher’s stage credits include performing at many Chicago theaters including Writers Theatre, Court Theatre and Northlight Theatre as well as internationally with John Mahoney at the Galway International Arts Festival in “Chapatti” and “Stella and Lou.” She was also at the Sydney Theatre in Australia with Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of “August: Osage County.”
“I saw Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple in a film when I was 10 years old,” Slusher said. “I fell in love with the character instantly. I wanted to BE Jane Marple, so this role is a childhood dream come true.”
Joe Foust, who directed the Peninsula Players’ production of “Wait Until Dark,” “The Hollow” and “Dial M for Murder,” helms the twists and turns of this classic mystery. While directing the play during the day he is performing in the theater’s current comedy, “A Trick of the Light” in the evenings.
Foust (“A Trick of the Light,” “Almost, Maine”) directs himself as well as returning Players Cassandra Bissell, Neil Brookshire, Cindy Gold (“Rain,” “Spider’s Web”) Ashley Lanyon (“Lend Me a Tenor,” Nunsense”) Carmen Roman (“Alabama Story,” “Lombardi,” “Master Class”) and Will Skrip (“Chicago”). Making their Peninsula Players debut are Christie Coran, Lee Palmer and Alexis J. Roston.
“A Murder is Announced” is being sponsored by A Friend of Peninsula Players and Dale & Margaret West.
Peninsula Players is a professional, not-for-profit theater that collaborates with members of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union of professional actors and stage managers; United Scenic Artists (USA), a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople; and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), a theatrical union of stage directors and choreographers.
The creative team includes award-winning regional designers. Creating the drawing rooms and other settings of the 1940s English village are scenic designer Jack Magaw, costume designer Keith Pitts, sound designer Christopher Kriz, properties designer Wendy A. Huber and, making his Door County debut, lighting designer Guy Rhodes.
“A Murder is Announced” performs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m.; except for Sunday, July 28 at 4 p.m. Individual ticket prices range from $40 to $46. Group rates are available for 15 and more. There are no performances on Mondays. For more information or to reserve tickets, phone the Peninsula Players Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit the website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.