Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Castaways Whodunit Keeps You Guessing

By • Oct 27th, 2006 • Category: Reviews

By Sara Joy Lebowitz

Why do you help a stranger? Sometimes we offer assistance when we see someone in need. The tourist looking for directions. The lady who can’t carry all her bags out of the grocery store.

But if you were to stumble upon a house on a dark, foggy night looking for help, only to find the master of the house shot through the head – seemingly by his wife – would you stay and help cover up the murder?

You probably wouldn’t, no matter how beautiful the new widow is. But that’s is just what Michael Starkwedder, coolly played by Carl Brandt Long, does in Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest, currently being produced by Castaways Repertory Theatre in Woodbridge, VA.

Of course, the big question is: “Why?”

This is the question that plagues the audience during the course of the production. Why is this stranger going to all this trouble? The question is almost answered later in the play when Starkwedder quips “Everyone seems to talk to me for some reason.” Curiosity goes a long way in a murder mystery, it’s what keeps the audience wondering and what seems to keep Starkwedder attached, as he inquisitively waits to see what he’ll be told next.

Confusion does reign during the first act. Much of it centers around the background of Richard Warwick, the deceased, and characters are mentioned who haven’t graced the stage yet. As with most Christie murder mysteries, keeping it all straight can be a challenge. But as the pieces begin to fall into place during the second act, and you begin to pick up on the nuances and secrets of each character, things begin to make more sense.

But of course, in true Agatha style, nothing is as it seems. After all, more than one person confesses to the crime. And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, a new piece of the puzzle is revealed.

Director Kevin Kirby has put together a wonderfully talented cast that balance each other well. Pamela Sabella as the widow, Laura Warwick, and Greg Powell as her lover, Julian Farrar, are electrifying together and their scene as they try to seek out answers from each other is absolutely captivating. Alexander Green as the young Jan Warwick is an absolute delight, playing the character with a childlike exuberance that makes you smile. He’s aptly balanced by the stoic Miss Bennet, played by the gifted Lori Muhlstein, during one of the more crucial and dramatic scenes of the play.

All this takes place on a gorgeous, vibrant set with doors that magically open and close as an actor approaches. Kirby did an excellent job of creating a world on stage that compliments and showcases the actors without overpowering them.

The Unexpected Guest will run October 27, 28, November 3, and 4 at 8 pm with a matinee on October 27 at 1 pm. All performances are the Dr. A. J. Ferlazzo Building, 15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Woodbridge, VA.

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