Thursday, October 8, 2009

Murdered to Death, Sam Bass Community Theatre, Round Rock, September 18 - October 10

Peter Gordon's script of
Murdered to Death is a loving send-up of the British "whodunit" and in particular of Agatha Christie's drawing room murder mysteries.

Dame Agatha's novels still sell vigorously today. Not so much in the United States, where we're more likely to encounter them at the public library or at used book sales along with discarded piles of Readers' Digest condensed books. But the French, the Germans, and -- presumably -- the British consume lots of Christie.

That tiny authoress, born in 1890 and died in 1976, has sold four billion copies of her novels to date, according to Wikipedia. Only the Bible has outsold her. She's the most translated author of all time, according to UNESCO, outsold only by the collective corporate output of Walt Disney. Her novels have appeared in 56 languages.

Perhaps because she constructed her tidy little puzzles in imagined comfortable settings stereotypical of the British landed gentry and bourgeoisie. Perhaps because she contrasted the elaborate politeness and bloodless deference of the educated English with their secret, bloody passions. Perhaps because in that world,crimes and mysteries were generally elucidated and the guilty were ususally apprehended by the equally polite and deferential forces of order, guided almost always by an inspired amateur.

It's a familiar scene, that 1930s tranquility sealed up in our imaginations, safe from the depredations of the wider world. The tidy universe of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot is such a part of English literary tradition that it's ripe for ribbing and interpretation.

Playwright Peter Morgan happily employs Christie's devices and character types, and the cast at the Sam Bass Community Theatre plays them with due respect -- in fact, the more absurd the goings on, the more deadpan is the humor. And it's very amusing, indeed.

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