Last evening, for an evening out, my middle brother and Joshua and I went to Theatre In The Round to see the company’s production of Agatha Christie’s “Appointment With Death”.
A little over a year ago, we had seen another Christie play at Theatre In The Round, “The Hollow”. Word-of-mouth around town has been that this season’s Christie production is better than last season’s Christie production, so we decided to take our chances with “Appointment With Death”.
“Appointment With Death” opened in London in Spring 1945, only weeks before the war in Europe ended. The production was not a success, and enjoyed only a brief run. No New York production was to follow (there has never been a Broadway production of “Appointment With Death”).
Christie created her play from her 1938 novel of the same name. As with “The Hollow”, Christie eliminated the character of Hercule Poirot from the stage version, knowing that Poirot was more a literary device of crime fiction than a character serving the needs of drama.
Further, Christie created a different ending for the stage version of “Appointment With Death”, going so far as to change the identity of the murderer.
Christie stage vehicles are too-leisurely-paced and too-filled with exposition; plot mechanisms are neither fresh nor imaginative.
It is the tissue of minutiae that Christie plants in both novels and stage works, and the unwinding and unraveling of that tissue of minutiae, that provides whatever rewards readers and audiences can muster from Christie.
We enjoyed “Appointment With Death” more than we had expected. “Appointment With Death” has a degree of cleverness; by the standards of its genre, the play is well-constructed, the clues skillfully presented—and yet skillfully concealed at the same time.
The production’s director had done a splendid job of staging the tale. The action proceeded lucidly, even stylishly, and the director was able to overcome the dead spots in the text, of which there are more than a few. I was very, very impressed.
The director’s name was John Gaspard. According to the program booklet, “Appointment With Death” was Gaspard’s sixth production for Theatre In The Round—but it was the first I had seen. Gaspard is better-known as a director of feature films than stage productions. Based upon his work in “Appointment With Death”, I would go see Gaspard's stage work again in an instant. He is very talented, and very imaginative, and should be working at The Guthrie.
Theatre In The Round offers ten productions each season. “Appointment With Death” was the final production of the 2012-2013 season, and the fourth production of the season we caught.
Theatre In The Round has announced yet another Christie play for next season, “Spider’s Web”.
Three Christie plays in three seasons: I think that is too much.
We shall not be there.