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Riverfront to perform Agatha Christie mystery

‘The Unexpected Guest’

♦ Sept. 14-Oct. 20

♦ The Riverfront Playhouse, 11-13 South Water Street Mall, Aurora

♦ Tickets, $12-$15

♦ (630) 897-9496


Updated: September 13, 2012 12:14PM

The Riverfront Playhouse’s latest offering, Agatha Christie’s “The Unexpected Guest,” was actually an unexpected production.

“We had another show scheduled, but the director got a new job and had to back out of directing the production,” said Shawn Dooley, who is directing “The Unexpected Guest.” “But we had been considering this script for a future date, and I was available to direct. I do like the dark, creepy shows. This is a good script and I have a great cast. Mysteries are a lot of fun.”

“The Unexpected Guest” will be presented at The Riverfront Playhouse in Aurora beginning on Sept. 14.

The two-act play, written by Agatha Christie in 1958, is set in the study of Richard Warwick’s home in South Wales near the Bristol Channel. Michael Starkwedder enters the Warwick home through a window and finds the dead body of Richard Warwick. He also finds Warwick’s wife, Laura, holding a gun that supposedly killed him. Despite the murder being obvious, and overwhelming evidence pointing towards it, Starkwedder does not believe Laura Warwick killed her husband. The two fake the fact that they were just finding out about the murder as others in the house become aware of what has happened.

Although Dooley has never directed an Agatha Christie play before, he has done other period thrillers and he knows the importance of keeping the right tone for a mystery/thriller.

“We have a great team of set builders and designers that have experience with this kind of show,” he said. “Knowing the time period and part of the world that the play takes place is important. Moody lighting also helps create an eerie atmosphere. Agatha Christie stories usually take place in old Victorian houses with dark earth tone colors: The dark, old house.”

Dooley also knows that keeping an audience fully involved in the play is central to a mystery’s success.

“It helps to have a strong cast,” he said of the nine cast members. “They have to have a good understanding of their characters and this type of show. When casting, I was looking for people who can tell the story. Without the fast action of a British farce, it’s challenging to keep the story moving. Basically, the actors have to be good storytellers.”

And whatever challenges he might face as a director, Dooley is always pleased with the end product.

“Directing can be very challenging, even maddening at times,” he said, “but, ultimately, the creative process can be very rewarding.”

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