Exactly 100 years ago, Agatha Christie wrote her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Incredibly (for an author whose work is the basis for dozens of classic plays), Styles will only next week receive its world premiere, on the stage of Rose Valley’s Hedgerow Theatre, in an adaptation by Hedgerow artistic director Jared Reed.
Jared hasn’t been shy about tampering with masterpieces — he previously adapted The Iliad, The Odyssey and A Christmas Carol for the stage — and he was determined to get at this Christie novel, which was not only her first to be published, but also the debut of her most famous creation, detective Hercule Poirot.
“We’ve been waiting to adapt this story for years,” Jared said. “Poirot is insufferable! He’s cute and brilliant and pompous.” But Miss Christie presented him with something of a challenge as her attention to detail made the novel difficult to modify. “You approach the work carefully,” Jared explained. “The hard part was in trying to get the length down without cutting plot points. It’s really amazing with Christie: everything is needed, whether it’s a clue or a red herring.”
The story takes place at Styles Court, an estate outside London which is owned by the wealthy heiress Emily Inglethorp, recently remarried to a much younger husband, Alfred. A slew of relations, friends and servants swirl about the place, and all become suspects as Emily is found dying from strychnine poisoning. Enter Poirot, the ace Belgian detective recently relocated to England because of the Great War, to help solve the case.
Rose Valley resident and Hedgerow mainstay Zoran Kovcic is Poirot, a role he first played in 1993. Stacy Skinner of Media portrays Emily, and longtime Hedgerow company member Susan Wefel of Rose Valley is Dorcas the maid. Hedgerow company members and resident fellows join other professionals from Philadelphia and the area in this suspenseful, comical mystery. Jared Reed directs.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles opens at Hedgerow Saturday, March 19 (following previews on Thursday and Friday), and runs through May 2 at America’s first repertory theatre, founded in 1923. It is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley. For more information, visit www.hedgerowtheatre.org or call (610) 565-4211.