Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Black Coffee"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone

"Black Coffee"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The year is 1934 and the place is Surrey, England. We are in the country home of Sir Claude Amory, a prominent physicist, whose secret formula is missing. The formula is for the Atomic Bomb but before the famous Beligian detective Hercule Poirot turns up, Sir Claude winds up dead. Poirot and his assistant, Captain Hastings must find the culprit among the members of his family, his loyal staff and the mysterious foregin guest before the whole world is put into terrible peril by this crime. Originally written in 1930 by Agatha Christie as a three act play, Whodunnit Murder Mystery Theater adapts it to a dinner theatre show that keeps you guessing who the criminal is till the final curtain, leading the audience on a merry madcap romp while doing it. Director Brian Ottaviano chooses the best 9 performers to play these well drawn characters to capture the essence of Christie's show.

Brian blocks the show beautifully and uses set pieces to give the feel of a 1930's living room. These include bookcase, French door flat, a sofa bench and door flat. He is aided in his task by his assistant director Geoffrey Monti who also plays one of the roles in the show. Playing Hercule Poirot is John Los, a veteran actor who is a master of many different accents including his newest, Belgian. He prods and pokes around the house questioning the suspects until he chooses the right one and captures the creature by using his little gray cells to do so. John performs this enormous part with flair and keeps the audience's interest all night long. His horny assistant Hastings is played by Brian Lamothe who while helping Poirot also helps himself to the many kisses of one of the young ladies in the house. He and John make a fine comic duo while questioning the suspects and solving the crime. Melody Los plays Caroline Amory, Sir Claude's younger sister. She is hilarious as a dingbat, Edith Bunker type of spinster who rambles on and on about things. Their slutty, drunken niece, Barabara is played marvelously by Nicole Maynard. She flounces around the room while secretly drinking from her hidden flask of gin. Nicole's vampy behavior and antics make her performance a laugh riot from start to finish.

Richard, the debt ridden son of Sir Claude is played by Geoffrey Monti who's British accent is so real some audience members thought he came from England. He is fantastic in this part delivering a strong and layered portrayal. His wife of 7 months, Lucia is played by Jamie Sousa who also delivers the goods. Lucia is from Italy and has a somewhat shady past but does she really love Richard or not? And why is she behaving so strangely? Another mysterious character is Dr. Carelli played by Chuck Landram. He has a wonderful Italian accent and his character is so smarmy you will be suspicious of his true motives but is he a red herring thrown in the mix by Christie or is he as vile as he seems to be? Also Raynor who is Sir Claude's personal secretary is another person who lives in the house but what does she really do there? Is there more to this woman than meets the eye? Elaine Schulbaum makes her debut in this show and delivers an incredible performance in her first time on stage. Rounding out the cast is Niles Welch as the pompous, Sir Claude who develops this awful formula and gets his just reward for doing so. Describing anything further would be giving away too much of the plot so be sure to catch this topnotch show before the run is over. You won't be disappointed.

An added twist to the show is an interactive one where an audience member is picked to play the butler. Guess who was the butler at this performance? Me. I played Tredwell, the butler while seated at my table and had a lot of fun doing it, too. The Crowne Plaza dinner with the show is excellent, too. You have a choice of boneless stuffed chicken or baked schrod with mixed vegetables, potato, salad, rolls and butter, coffee and strawberry cheesecake. These are all served to you by head waiter Joe, and his assistant, Jen who are like whirling dervishes with their promptness and courtesy. So for a great dinner theatre murder mystery be sure to catch "Black Coffee". Tell them Tredwell, I mean, Tony sent you.

"Black Coffee" (3 - 31 May)
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 801 Greenwich Avenue, WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401)580-1668

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide