Summer Chills

Appreciating the Genius of Agatha Christie—Unedited and Uncut

The Alley spins a web of deception—and comedy.

By Sarah Taqvi June 20, 2016 Published in the July 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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(L-R) John Tyson, Todd Waite, Josie de Guzman, James Black and David Rainey in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.

Image: Jann Whaley

To truly appreciate Agatha Christie's genius, a trip to the theater is a must. “Many successful films have been made of the novels, and some of her plays have been translated successfully to films—Witness for the Prosecution, And Then There Were None,” says Gregory Boyd, artistic director of the Alley Theatre. “But many of her stage creations are only effective when done properly in the live theater... That’s where they were intended to be, and that’s where they work supremely well.” Why is that?
“There are no cuts or edits, and the working out of her wonderful plots occurs right in front of you,” explains Boyd. “And she is scrupulous about playing fair with the audience. All the clues are there, so it really is an interactive experience, with the audience and playwright matching wits, and her delight in deceiving them.”
This month, as part of its annual Summer Chills series, the Alley presents the British writer’s 1954 play, Spider’s Web, which follows Clarissa Hailsham-Brown, a charming pathological liar who happens upon a dead body in the drawing room of her Copplestone Court home. “It’s unique in Christie’s work in that it is the only mystery/comedy that she wrote, and it was one of her favorites,” says Boyd, who’s directing the production. The set, designed by Linda Buchanan, features “some tricks of its own, too,” he says.
Agatha Christie plays are a staple for the Alley. The playwright’s work, Boyd says, is timeless. “I have loved the Agatha Christie mysteries since I was a very young theatergoer, taken to see a San Francisco production of And Then There Were None, which scared the wits out of me when I was 8,” he says. “I love doing them. They are written with such brilliant technique and fantastically worked-out plots. No one else, in Hollywood or anywhere, comes close.” 

July 12–Aug 14. Tickets start at $26. Alley Theatre’s Hubbard Theatre, 615 Texas Ave. 713-220-5700.

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