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by Agatha Christie
Adapted by Leslie Darbon

Garland Civic Theatre

Director – Kyle McClaran
Stage Manager – Kendall Watson
Assistant Stage Manager – Bryanna Davis
Light Design – Kendall Watson
Set and Costumes – Kyle McClaran

Letty Blacklock – Peyton Hayslip
Julia Simmons – Calli Rose Young
Dora Bruner – Heather Smothers
Patrick Simmons – Preston Wells
Miss Marple – Theresa K. Pegues
Mitzi – Victoria Sawyer Wells
Phillipa Haymes – Melissa Hartman Couture
Mrs. Swettenham – Laura Blenk
Edmund Swettenham – Hayden Sparks
Rudi Scherz and Inspector Craddock – Charles Ratcliff II

Reviewed Performance: 7/28/2017

Reviewed by Darlene Singleton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, written in 1950, by Agatha Christie has all the essential Christie elements: an isolated country house; a parade of peculiar, handsome, and beautiful suspects; a couple of unseen murders; a snarky detective; and the incomparable Miss Marple. Even years after her last novel, Christie’s mysteries are still a part of popular culture - her writing career lasted more than 55 years - she wrote 72 novels (66 mystery novels and 6 romance novels) and 15 short story collections.

The setting for A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED is 1938 Chipping Cleghorn, a country town in England. Director, Kyle McClaran’s set design is a feast for the eyes when entering the theater - red is definitely the theme here along with various animal print throw pillows, glowing chandeliers, and decorative panels adding dimension to the staging.

This is one Agatha Christie story I was not familiar with, but I quickly learned the premise is that the middle-aged spinster Letitia "Letty" Blacklock (played by Peyton Hayslip) lives a comfortable if somewhat uneventful life at Little Paddocks, in an apparently large home she shares with her companion Dora "Bunny" Bunner (Heather Smothers); her young cousins Julia Simmons (Calli Rose Young) and Patrick Simmons (Preston Wells); a young widower Phillipa Haymes (Melissa Hartman Couture); and a young migrant housekeeper and cook, Mitzi (Victoria Sawyer Wells). The household becomes concerned when Bunny discovers a newspaper advertisement stating that a murder will take place at the property with specifics of date and time. The townsfolk, including Miss Marple (Theresa K. Pegues), Mrs. Swettenham (Laura Blenk) and Edmund Swettenham (Hayden Sparks), have also read this notice and turn up before the specified time to witness a murder. Much of the story revolves around Inspector Craddock (Charles Ratcliff II) investigating the crime along with unwanted help, of course, from Miss Marple.

Kudos go to Victoria Sawyer Wells as Mitzi and Peyton Hayslip as Letty. These two ladies were very entertaining to watch onstage. I caught myself laughing out loud as Victoria, the paranoid refugee who keeps house and cooks for Letty, displays passive aggressive behavior as the over-the-top hot-blooded and skeptical migrant. I expect I will be using her phrase - Thank you - You’re welcome – for some time to come. Peyton was exceptional as the refined lady of the manor who is only concerned for her guests and their safety and comfort.

The cast includes Heather Smothers as Bunny, dressed in what appears as full Cyndi Lauper regalia, who portrays her character’s shortcomings as endearing, and subtly seeks sympathy from the audience as Letty often tries to dismiss her as confused. Theresa K. Pegues as Miss Marple gives a solid performance as the busy-body sleuth, albeit she is a much younger version with wild red curly hair. Charles Ratcliff II as Inspector Craddock is very likeable and down-to-earth as he pursues the murderer. Rounding out the ensemble cast who all happen to be suspects for various reasons are Callie Rose Young as Julia, Preston Wells as Patrick, Melissa Hartman Couture as Phillippa, Laura Blenk as Mrs. Swettenham, and Hayden Sparks as Edmund.

Garland Civic Theatre is celebrating their 50th Anniversary Season with their presentation of A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED and is a must-see if you consider yourself an amateur detective.

300 North 5th Street, Garland, TX
Box Office: 972-205-2790 or
Through August 19