Go Back for Murder

gbfmThe Summer Company presents Agatha Christie’s Go Back for Murder, an unusual take on the traditional murder mystery. What could be more exciting than family secrets, intrigue, suspense, romance and seduction?

The story begins as a young English woman from Canada, Carla Crale (Rebekah Hukill), returns to England, to try and discover the truth behind her father’s death. Her mother died in prison following her conviction for poisoning her husband, Carla’s father.  When Carla turned of age, she was given a letter her mother wrote to her, proclaiming her innocence, which sent Carla on her quest to find the truth.

Carla enlists the help of a young solicitor, Justin Fogg (Grant Jones), who was at her mother’s trial, in order to help her locate some of the people who were present when her father died. This, over the objections of her boorish fiancée Jeff Rodgers (Nathaniel Yost).

In the first act, which is set in 1962, Carla meets with those present on the day of her father’s death at Alderbury House on the south coast of England. Each is asked to ‘go back’ to the day of her father’s death in order to recount their version of the events.

In the second act, the action slips seamlessly from 1948, the year in which the murder actually occurred and 1962. Justin and Carla successfully manage a semi-reconstruction at the murder scene with all the witnesses. Together they uncover the various inconsistencies in testimonies and the drama arrives at the disturbing truth.

The story is interesting in its own right as we follow the plots twists and turns on the way to discovering the real truth about Carla’s father’s murder. What really makes the Summer Company’s production of Go Back for Murder is the casting. The eleven characters are portrayed by a great group local Pittsburgh area actors young and old.  The older seasoned actors make the difference, but none of the ensemble should be discounted in terms of their abilities.

It is Susan McGregor-Laine as Mrs. Williams, the former governess for Angela, Mrs. Crale’s half-sister, that really steals the show. It’s not just her lines that draw frequent laughter but her years of experience that create a fully realized portrayal of her character. The nuances, gestures, and movements are perfectly timed with her delivery.

Phillip and Meredith Blake, two gentlemen who have known Carla since she was a youngster are perfectly played by Jay Keenan and Mark Yochum. They capture the bond of two elderly brothers who seem share everything but know nothing about each other. It was quite the pleasure to watch these two “dance” around all the shenanigans that were happening at Alderbury back in 1948.

There is an interesting production twist which was executed quite well. Grant Jones plays both the younger attorney Justin Fogg and Carla’s Crale’s father Amayas. Rebekah Hukill plays both Carla and her mother Caroline. During the first act, it’s the contemporary Justin and Carla. In the second act, they bounce back and forth from ’48 to ’62 fairly seamlessly thanks to some costume magic.  I was less impressed with their performance in Act One than Two, both seeming to be more at ease in their 1948 characters.

Nora Lee plays the physically scarred Angela Warren, the younger half sibling of Caroline. She transitions from the worldly older Angela to the bratty schoolgirl with the shift of a pony tail and a change of gait.

The cast is rounded out by Ron Silver Waruszewski as the Lurch-like butler, Juliette Mariani as Amyas’ mistress Lady Melksham and Nathaniel Yost as Carla’s briefly seen fiancée Jeff Rogers.

Jill Jeffery has secured some very elegant costumes including some fabulous fur collared coats perfect for the plays time of year and cold drafty offices and houses.

Director John Lane Jr’s., one of the founders of the Summer Company, has an extensive resume directing ensemble dramas and uses all the tricks he’s learned to create an engaging and enjoyable evening of theatre. He also does double duty as set designer finding clever ways to fit all the locales and actors on the cozy Genesius stage. Though one criticism would be Dale Hess’ lighting design which seemed to often leave actors faces just outside of their light.

The Summer Company’s production of Go Back for Murder is an entertaining evening of theatre with a company of wonderful actors in a comfortable setting that should not be missed.

Go Back for Murder with performances August 19th – 27th at the Genesius Theater on the campus of Duquesne University, adjacent to the Mary Pappert School of Music

Tickets at the door or online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3041661

Thanks to the Summer Company for the complementary tickets.