Written by the queen of mystery and plot twists and turns, Agatha Christie never fails to please the theater-goer seeking a mystery worth its weight in guesswork and detecting. After all, when all is said and done, the whodunit remains a favorite around the world. THE UNEXPECTED GUEST fulfills the Christie promise as an entertaining, truly mysterious tale of mayhem and murder. First produced in London in 1958, THE UNEXPECTED GUEST has been adapted internationally as a book, television movie, and motion picture since its premiere over 60 years ago.
It is a foggy night in the Welsh countryside, but the silence is shattered by gunshots at the Llangelert House. When a stranger whose car has broken down shows up looking for help, he instead encounters a corpse staring up at him from a wheelchair. To further complicate matters, Michael Starkwedder (Lee Samuel Tanng) observes the victim’s wife, Laura Warwick (Taryne Moyse) standing near the victim with a smoking gun in her hand. A perfect beginning to a Christie conundrum.
But it seems that there are a number of other people in the house, including the victim’s caretaker Miss Bennett (Lisa J. Salas), the victim’s very strange brother (Christian Jordan Skinner), the victim’s mother (Carmen Tunis), the family butler Henry (Stephen Alan Carver), and Tod Walker (Julian Farrar), a neighbor who has become Laura’s very close friend. Soon it becomes obvious that someone in the Warwick residence has done the deed – but who? And why?
Jeff Brown directs with a firm hand as the tale proceeds to its inevitable conclusion. The cast does a good job of keeping Christie’s spirit alive. Special kudos to Skinner, who does a splendid job of portraying a difficult character with grace and a dose of reality. David Scaglione’s set design is appropriately eerie and manages to incorporate a very long stage effectively. Szu-Yun Wang’s lighting and Nayla Hull’s sound play an important role in conveying the spooky tale. Samantha Reynolds’ costumes keep the era in focus. Overall, the production team does a creditable job of keeping Christie’s mystery sinister – but also occasionally humorous.
Agatha Christie buffs – as well as those among us who are intrigued by a clever mystery – will certainly find AN UNEXPECTED GUEST entertaining and appropriately involving. Let’s see if you can pinpoint the killer before Christie lets us in on the secret. Even though Christie’s tales are obviously dated, they nonetheless seem fresh when well produced.
THE UNEXPECTED GUEST runs through February 8, 2020, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Long Beach Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim Street, Long Beach, CA 90804. For information and reservations, call 562-494-1014 or go online.