Taking place in 1923 England, Captain Hastings (Kim Morgan Dean) assists the dedicated Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot (Omri Schein), with murder cases. One day, Hercule gets a call from a mysterious man, Paul Renauld (Matthew Salazar-Thompson), in a fictional French countryside village, Merlinville-Sur-Mer. Paul asks for his help, without properly explaining why he needs it.
Once Hercule and Hastings arrive at Paul’s home, they discover that the detective’s client was murdered at a nearby golf course. The two try to figure out who killed Paul, which results in them meeting several suspicious suspects.
Instead of being a straightforward interpretation of Christie’s book, writer and director, Steven Dietz, presents the tale as a comic mystery. He stages even the darkest of scenes with a tongue-in-cheek tone.
Before the plot gets going, an introduction occurs where the actors talk to the audience. Although the opening is a little corny with Dietz trying a bit too hard to make the cast feel almost like a theatre troupe, the story does quickly become engaging as audiences see Hastings and Hercule interact.
The writer and director works with set designer, Marty Burnett, lighting designer, Matt Novotny, costumer designer, Elisa Benzoni, prop designer, Rachel Hengst, and composer and sound designer Robertson Witmer to create a simultaneously suspenseful and playful atmosphere. A standout sequence that showcases all of their work is a lengthy backstory about Paul’s life recreated with bowling pins. It’s a comical and imaginative scene that is a big highlight of the show.As the leads, Dean and Schein are amusing to watch, especially whenever Hastings is caught off guard by Hercule’s intelligent and occasionally blunt personality. They are consistently entertaining portraying the iconic duo.
Jennifer Erdmann, Brian Mackey, Jessica Mosher and Salazar-Thompson portray more than 20 characters with high energy and wonderful comic timing. Each of the ensemble members are often funny, and are sometimes required to shift into different roles within a matter of seconds.
While I did have a good time seeing the clues come together, I admit that I was confused by the big reveal of the narrative. Based off of conversations I had with several audience members on opening night, I realized I wasn’t the only person puzzled by the twist. I still think Dietz has time to flesh out the conclusion between the run in Solana Beach and the next staging of Murder on the Links at Laguna Playhouse.
Despite featuring an ending that could be clearer, the play is still a solid premiere with standout performances and witty humor. There is plenty to appeal to crime aficionados and theatregoers in the mood for clever laughs.
Show times are Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m, Thursdays at 8:00 p.m, Fridays at 8:00 p.m, Saturdays at 2:00 p.m and 8:00 p.m and Sundays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m.