Theater Review: MURDER ON THE LINKS (North Coast Repertory Theatre)

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by Dan Zeff on April 23, 2023

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego


The latest production at North Coast Rep is a stage adaption of Dame Agatha Christie’s 1923 detective novel Murder on the Links. Originally titled The Murder on the Links, it was the second novel to star the Belgian private detective Hercule Poirot. The eccentric Poirot became one of the most popular detectives in modern fiction, and some of his Poirot stories indeed were of high quality. But more often than not the novels were talky, with two dimensional characters and complicated improbable plots. As a novel, Murder on the Links regrettably falls into that negative category.

That’s the bad news.

Jessica Mosher. Matthew Salazar-Thompson, Kim Morgan-Dean,
Omri Schein, Brian Mackey, Jennifer Erdmann

The good news is that the North Coast Rep has wisely brought in American playwright Steven Dietz to adapt the 100-year old work into a play that affectionally satirizes the Christie style with wit and charm. Flourishing under Dietz’s clever directing, the six-member cast performs with exceptional versatility and style, superbly enhanced by droll set, sound, and costume designs.

Jessica Mosher. Matthew Salazar-Thompson, Kim Morgan Dean,
Omri Schein, Brian Mackey, Jennifer Erdmann

Murder on the Links takes place mostly in France during the early 1920s. A wealthy Frenchman contacts the London-based Poirot, urging him to come to his French home to consult on an unnamed emergency. Poirot, accompanied by his companion Captain Hastings, rushes to the Frenchman’s estate only to find that the Frenchman has been murdered, stabbed in the back and his body dumped in a shallow grave on an uncompleted golf course on the deceased’s estate. Then flows a cascade of red herrings, betrayals, mistaken and phony identities, greedy offspring, and vengeful lovers.

Jennifer Erdmann, Jessica Mosher, Kim Morgan-Dean, Omri Schein

While the local authorities run around in circles, the intrepid Poirot harnesses his “little grey cells” to finger the actual culprit, naturally the most unlikely character, as the villain. In the novel, the solution to the puzzle should elicit a sigh of “Who cares?” from fidgety readers.

Kim Morgan-Dean, Omri Schein, Brian Mackey

Dietz rescues the novel by having some fun with it. Dietz employs six gifted actors to play the two dozen characters called for in the script, led by Omri Schein as Poirot and Kim Morgan-Dean as Hastings. The vast number of supporting characters is divided among Jennifer Erdmann, Brian Mackey, Jessica Mosher, and Matthew Salazar-Thompson. They  scintillate with their rapid-fire costume changes, shifts in accents, and comic timing.

Omri Schein, Jessica Mosher, Kim Morgan-Dean

A special commendation goes to Schein, who absolutely nails Poirot with the little man’s scuttling walk, humorous accent, massive ego, and shrewd powers of observation and deduction.

Kim Morgan-Dean, Omri Schein

Dietz’s directing is full of clever sight gags handled flawlessly by the ensemble. One long scene has Poirot and five other major other characters gathering around a long table, using bowling pins clothed in tiny cloth outfits to try to work out the killer’s identity. As a puppet show the scene is one hilarious high-speed laugh after another and must be a hoot to perform.

Kim Morgan-Dean, Jessica Mosher

The larky creativity of the production receives an essential boost from the scene design by Marty Burnett, the costume design by Elisa Benzoni, the lighting design by Matt Novotny, the hair and wig design by Peter Herman, the sound design by Robertson Witmer, and the props design by Rachel Hengst. But everyone associated with this endeavor deserves congratulations.

photos by Ken Jacques

Murder on the Links
North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach
Wed at 7; Thurs & Fri at 7:30; Sat at 2 & 7:30; Sun at 2 & 7:30
ends on May 21, 2023
for tickets, call 858.481-1055 or visit North Coast Rep

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