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Preview of Live Oak’s Murder on the Orient Express

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Initially released in 1934 to become one of literary-legend, Agatha Christie’s most famous stories. Murder on the Orient Express was deemed enthralling by The Times Literary Supplement and inspired two cinematic adaptions, the first of which earned nine industry awards. And now, the Orient Express rolls onto the stage of Live Oak Theatre, September 23 through October 9. Live Oak Theatre Company (LOT) is a not-for-profit 501 (C) (3) repertory company of local artists, located at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for the Arts, 21030 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville. This production is presented in partnership with Jonathan McDonald and Sinkhole Titan Company.

A short summary of the play provided by Live Oak read, “Eight suspects, one thrilling ride… Winter 1934. The Orient Express is traveling through Europe when its journey is halted by a snowdrift. A man is found stabbed in his bed, and famous detective Hercule Poirot – who happens to be on his way back to London from Istanbul – is called upon to investigate the murder. Each of his fellow travelers is suspicious…”

Director Katie Marra is pleased to bring this one of a kind production to the Live Oak stage. “Live Oak has never produced a murder mystery and has only done a few straight-plays,” said Marra. “Since it felt like a new form of a familiar medium, we wanted to start with a classic and it’s pretty hard to get more classic than an Agatha Christie mystery.”

Marra emphasizes that the Live Oak stage is custom made for this production. “Our theatre boasts a unique quality that regular readers have probably heard about by now: a thrust stage!” she said. “We invite the audience to be seated in the very train cars of the Orient Express and travel on this foreign, timeless journey with us. We aim to even allow them to feel the chill from the snow outside the train that brings it to an abrupt halt in its path.”

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In staging Murder on the Orient Express, Marra finds that the play’s train set ranks among its biggest challenges. “The biggest challenge so far has been the set. As we have gone through blocking before having it, we found that it is as much a character as any one of the actors,” she said. “The train is the vessel that quite literally propels the story forward. The actors have done a wonderful job working with their blocking within the mental boundaries we had to set between train cars and suites. Our set designers have been hard at work preparing various pieces that will embody the 1934 realization of the vessel.”

Marra is also excited to bring to life the work of one of her favorite authors. “When reading one of her books, it feels almost unnatural to return to reality. Being able to implement my vision of one of her book’s adaptations is exciting and extremely daunting,” she said. “It has been brought to the screen and gained such a wide following that you feel that you have to get it ‘right.’ However, I plan to create a visual piece that, while familiar, will be different than what everybody has seen before and I trust my talented cast to leave it all on the stage.”

Assistant Director Vince Vanni is also a fan of Agatha Christie, he stated, “As far as I am concerned, I have always been a fan of Agatha Christie,” said Vanni. “I have personally viewed about 75% of the films and videos that were based on her books. I have also viewed every available version of Murder on the Orient Express and I am offering my expertise to the cast. I am periodically consulted on characterizations of the different members of the story.”

In bringing Murder on the Orient Express to the stage, Marra hopes that viewers take away a very important message.”Anybody that knows this show will know that there is a clear message to be taken away. There are comedic moments, but overall, the show hits a few emotional beats from multiple angles to bring together a brilliant cast of characters,” she said. “Anybody that is unfamiliar with the story will just have to join us to find out what happened on those few fatal days aboard the notorious Orient Express.”

For more information about the Live Oak Theatre Company, or to reserve seating or Flex passes for Murder on the Orient Express visit www.LiveOakTheatre.org, email [email protected], or call 352-593-0027. Live Oak encourages the community to check out their Facebook page as well.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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