By Rod Stafford Hagwood, SouthFlorida.com
1:54 PM EST, January 18, 2013
The four radio mysteries lavishly produced for the stage at Fort Lauderdale’s Parker Playhouse were rescued from obscurity by theatrical impresario Zev Buffman after the BBC building was leveled by bombs during WWII. (Buffman is like Caesar returning to Rome at the Parker, a theater he helped put on the map.)
Your eyes adjust to the actors reading their lines at microphones — and stepping away for a little action here and there — just as they would have when these one-acts were presented in the studio during radio’s heyday in the 1930s and ‘40s.
Your ears tune in and lock onto the intricately choreographed sound effects of the Foley artists stage right and the sound engineers at the back of the house. You hear the pouring of a stiff cocktail, the creak of a door opening, a train roaring into the station.
The four playlets presented here include:
“Butter in a Lordly Dish,” a delicious revenge thriller.
“Three Blind Mice,” a whodunit with a cast of characters stuck in a snowbound guesthouse (and the forerunner of the mega-hit “The Mousetrap”).
“Personal Call,” an atmospheric adventure with ghostly phone calls.
“Yellow Iris,” in which Christie’s famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solves a mystery in a fashionable cabaret nightclub … between songs by Rupert Holmes (“Curtains,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”).
And, yes, that sound thing is a bravissimo effect, one that somehow manages to charm throughout the two-hour show with a 15-minute intermission. But it is the cast that makes it all work, from the round robin of characters to the wink-wink-nudge-nudge feel that makes up for the audience being waaaay ahead of the detectives in many cases.
Standouts include Amy Walker (a stunningly versatile actor), Phil Proctor (member of Firesign Theatre, which adapted the plays) and Gary Sandy (a veteran actor best known for “WKRP in Cincinnati”).
This is old-fashioned storytelling, sumptuously updated in a theatrical construct that shouldn’t flow nearly as well as it does. “The BBC Murders” is so close to perfect (that last mystery is a little ragged) we may just go ahead and offer a verdict: The show should make a killing.
‘Agatha Christie’s the BBC Murders’ plays through Feb. 3 at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., in Fort Lauderdale. Performances are 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Matinees are 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (also Wednesdays on Jan. 23 and Jan. 30). Tickets cost from $26.50 to $66.50. Call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org.
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