Review: 'Murder on the Nile' by Aquila Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • OnStage Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

Danbury, CT - New York based Aquila Theatre presented ‘Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile’ this weekend at the MainStage Theatre at the Visual & Performing Arts Center at Western Connecticut State University. Aquila’s mission is to make classical works accessible to the greatest number of patrons and they feel a responsibility to acknowledge and explore newfound classical works. This production, which was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Artworks, was directed by Peter Meineck.

Murder on the Nile is based on Ms. Christie’s 1937 novel titled ‘Death on the Nile’ which she wrote during the darkest days of World War II. Aquila decided to set it in the BBC Home Service studios in London during an air raid. The air raid has prevented most of the cast members from making it to the radio studio in time for the live broadcast, so the three who are there must pick up the slack. The director writes “I hope that in Aquila’s 25th Silver Jubilee year, this production of ‘Murder on the Nile’ breathes new life into a much-loved classic work by a seminal author years ahead of her time.”

A mere three cast members formed the company that played 13 roles, eight males and five females. Think about the logistics of all that. Some scenes had two or three characters, but some bumped up to four or five, so actors needed to literally change hats back and forth quickly to keep up. Many of the 13 characters were played by all three cast members at different times and all three played said character with the same mannerisms and accents. Genders were switched as well; in fact, one male actor began the play as a cleaning woman at the station and never changed out of his dress, although he changed his characters repeatedly. 

The talented actors who accomplished this were Lincoln Hudson, Palmyra Mattner and Toby Miller. If they had been members of a company of 13, I would be saying that they did a great job with their characters; the fact that they all pulled off all of them, shifting with lightening speed, made this a very unique and most memorable production. 

James McDaniel designed the period costumes, while Mr. Meineck designed the lighting. Chase Duhe was the sound designer, Dave Tennent did the wonderful projections and Desiree Sanchez was the movement consultant for the added dance numbers to Egyptian-themed contemporary tunes. 
This production coincided with Welcome Week at WCSU, so there were many college students in the audience enjoying the show. Aquila has come to the university with previous productions including ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet.’