Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee turns 78 this year. It was her first play, later turned into the novel, “Le Coffret de Jaque” aka Lackered Box (English spelling for Lacquered Box). It introduced to the stage her most popular character, Hercule Poirot.
In Black Coffee Poirot is charged with finding Britain’s leading physicist Sir Claud Amory’s (Bud Emerson) valuable formula. Suspects abound, each highly motivated to perpetrate this heinous crime. They keep streaming in and out of the elegantly appointed library in his home outside of London.
There is son Richard (Steve Murdock) and his wife, Lucia (Elizabeth Mander-Wilson), both of whom would love to share in the wealth. His sister Caroline (Lizette Kent Allen) as well as his niece, Barbara (Jessica Seaman) seem to have a need for ill-gotten gains. With relatives like these, who needs enemies?
One certainly would not suspect his secretary, Edward Raynor (Terence J. Burke), or his butler, Treadwell (Timothy Paul Evans). Last on the long list of suspects is an unexpected (albeit somewhat mysterious) Italian guest, Dr. Carelli (Nicolas Peters). Just why is the good doctor visiting Richard’s wife, Lucia?
Sir Amory enlists the famed Hercule Poirot (Michael Gardner) to investigate. Poirot asks the help of Captain Hastings (Ivan Harrison), Inspector Japp (Nick Reeves), and Dr. Graham (Eric Hedberg) to aid in the investigation and interrogations. There will be a test at the end of this review on who’s who and why!
At just shy of two and a half hours with intermission the investigation gets a bit tedious. It was Ms. Christie’s first play in a period when most plays were three acts and over two hours long. From an historical view, Black Coffee introduced the theatre world to a writer that would go on to create a very special niche in the mystery genre.
Set Designer Rosemary King created an elegant platform for the production. Add to her artistry elegant furnishing by Set Dresser Ivan J. Harrison and excellent period costumes by Angela Wills. Dale Goodman’s lighting design works well as does Steve Murdock’s sound design. Elizabeth Mander-Wilson and Ivan Harrison coached the cast in the British dialect.
On the night that I witnessed the production, the theatre and much of San Diego County was pelted by a hard rain and hail. The roof and ceiling seemed to further amplify the sounds of nature. Consequently, the cast had to project over this roar. Sadly some of Agatha Christie’s dialog was lost. For the Christie fans, Black Coffee should be on their list.
Timothy Paul Evans, Elizabeth Mander-Wilson, Lizette Kent Allen, Steve Murdock, Jessica Seaman, Terence J. Burke, Nicolas Peters, Bud Emerson, Michael Gardner, Ivan Harrison, Eric Hedberg, Nick Reeves
Producer/AD Mary Anderson, Set Design Rosemary King, Tech Advisor/Set Dressing Ivan J. Harrison, Sound Design Steve Murdock, Lighting Design Dale Goodman, Costume Design Angela Wills, SM Amy Covington, British Dialect Coaches Elizabeth Mander-Wilson & Ivan Harrison, Tech Ron Hoyt
Total Rating: Two stars
Author: Agatha Christie
Director: Keith A. Anderson
Date Reviewed: March15, 2008
Dates: Thursday thru Sunday, to April 13, 2008
Running Time: 147 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
The Coronado Playhouse
1775 Strand Way
Coronado, CA 92118
Box Office Phone: 619 435-4856