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‘A Murder is Announced’ an arresting production

Kathleen Ellyn

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on November 8, 2017 10:11AM

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Inspector Craddock and Miss Marple (Stuart Vencill and Gwen Menton) try to solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again in the MIdValley Theatre Co. production of “A Murder is Announced.” Three performances remain, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lostine Academy in Lostine.

Contributed photo Inspector Craddock and Miss Marple (Stuart Vencill and Gwen Menton) try to solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again in the MIdValley Theatre Co. production of “A Murder is Announced.” Three performances remain, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lostine Academy in Lostine.

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Kathleen Ellyn/Chieftain
Three able actresses, from left to right: Gwen Menton as Miss Marple, Jennifer Hobbs as Letitia Blacklock and Carol Vencill as Dora “Bunny” Bunner anchor the ambitious production of “A Murder is Announced.”

Kathleen Ellyn/Chieftain Three able actresses, from left to right: Gwen Menton as Miss Marple, Jennifer Hobbs as Letitia Blacklock and Carol Vencill as Dora “Bunny” Bunner anchor the ambitious production of “A Murder is Announced.”

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Wallowa County residents are being treated to a skillful production of “A Murder is Announced” for three more showings this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Delightful amateur performances support the complex, 90-minute, two-act production of the Agatha Christie murder favorite.

It is an ambitious play, and one cannot help but admire the able direction of Kate Loftus in bringing it off.

Jennifer Hobbs as Letitia Blacklock carries the lion’s share of the dialogue through most of the production. Her reserve is carefully spiced at precisely the right moments and her confident acting anchors the production.

Carol Vencill, as the ditzy Dora “Bunny” Bunner, gives a pitch-perfect portrayal of the character on the verge of “spilling the beans” with every comment. Vencill’s acting skills allow “Bunny” to keep the audience laughing while skating the very edge of crossing the line into caricature.

Gwen Menton is a perfect Miss Marple. Her arrival on the stage elicited such joy of recognition prompting instant applause. Menton’s experience was visible throughout as she remained true to character in every moment –– acting with such subtlety that the character of Miss Marple was evident even when she was simply sitting on the couch listening to other characters.

Actors with less time on stage also shine with Andy Martin, as the dramatic housekeeper Mitzi Horacheck, striking just the right balance of whirlwind in the ordered English parlor.

Other cast members include Anna Moholt, Sebastian Hobbs, Paige Lattin, Amé Leggett, Jeff Fields, Bryce Leggett, Stuart Vencill and Steve Kliewer.

Gwen Menton and Carol Vencill selected costumes for the cast in their second gig as costume designers. The costumes enhance every actor’s performance and brought wonder at each costume change.

The choice to dress stagehands as parlor maids and even allow them a moment or two of acting or interacting with the audience during costume changes also kept the audience engaged throughout.

IF YOU GO

“A Murder is Announced” is staged at Lostine Academy Gym 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The play runs for 90 minutes with one intermission. Snacks and drinks are available. Tickets at the door for $8.



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