‘An Unexpected Guest’ mesmerizes

By Meredith Pechta, Theater reviews | Sep 19, 2013

Most murder mysteries aren’t suspenseful.  We get used to the patterns and are rarely surprised by the end.  But Agatha Christie’s work always shocks everyone in the last five minutes.

The Driftwood Players are artfully bringing her material to life in their production of “An Unexpected Guest.”  The story begins like no other murder mystery; with a body.

Into this story comes a stranded motorist named Michael Starkwedder.  He comes into a house to ask for help with his car, but comes upon a corpse instead.

The victim’s wife confesses to having shot him for emotional abuse.  She insists that he call the police and turn her in.

But the more the motorist hears about the kind of person the husband was to everyone, the more he believes the husband deserved what he got.  So the motorist helps her frame someone else.

Everyone in the house hated the victim Richard Warwick.  Even his own mother isn’t particularly saddened by his death.  So did the wife Laura really shoot him, or is she covering for someone else?

There are two possibilities. The first was her handicapped brother-in-law whom her husband was always threatening.  The second is a neighbor who has much to gain from the man’s death.  And why is this motorist being so helpful?  Is he being used or is he the user?

All these questions tantalize the audience and keep us on the edge of our seats until the end.   The cast is excellent.

Meagan Castillo is wonderful as the possibly guilty wife.  Although she’s caught in a number of lies, she manages to earn the audience’s trust.

David Foster is phenomenal in the title role.  You may remember him from the Driftwood Players’ production of “The Musical Comedy Murder Mysteries of 1940.”

The mentally challenged brother-in-law Jan is well-played by Thomas Kai McLellan.  Because he hated his brother so much and has a loose tongue, he gets himself into more trouble than he should.

Steve Ruggles and Trevor Brandt play the cops assigned to the case.  Ruggles is the seasoned professional who wants very much to find the truth.  His trainee, Sgt. Cadwallader, is childlike and a little too comfortable in another’s home.

The next-door neighbor, Jullian Farrar, is played by Jon Loina.  He is a true politician here, trying to make the most of a bad situation.

Vicky Lynn Maxey is enigmatic as Mrs. Warwick. Many people will recognize her from her work with the Reunion Theater group, but she is a bright spot in this production as well.

Justin Tinsley plays the victim’s male nurse, Angell.  He doesn’t have a halo on his head, but whether he recently held a gun is debatable.

And Juliana Pereira plays Benny, the secretary, who may have covered up something sinister for a petty reason.  She too is no stranger to murder mystery theater.

If you want to be mesmerized for an evening, you want to be a guest in this house.

“An Unexpected Guest” is playing at the Wade James Theater at 950 Main Str., Edmonds.

The show plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays, at 2 p.m. Sundays now through Sept. 29.

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