Drink in Christie's skill in "Black Coffee"

By by dianna wray/dwray@vicad.com
Aug. 1, 2012 at 3:01 a.m.

I love black coffee, but it seems wise for the characters in Agatha Christie's famed play, "Black Coffee," to steer clear of the stuff if they want to stay alive.

Christie had been crafting mystery stories for years when someone adapted one of her works for the stage. The famed British author of the whodunit hated the interpretation, and decided to write her own plays instead.

The first result was, "Black Coffee," a mystery that appeared on the stage in 1930, featuring the beloved Belgian inspector Hercule Poirot. Poirot has been summoned to visit a famed physicist at the man's country estate, only to find the host quite dead when he arrives there.

The ensuing plot involving a missing formula and lots of suspects ends with Poirot solving the mystery in the end, as always, but with plenty of twists and turns to keep those in the audience on the edge of their seats.

The play was a respectable hit when it premiered in 1930. The joy in seeing it is getting to take a gander at Christie's consummate skill in steering the story to the big reveal of who actually did kill the physicist. Even as a newcomer to the genre, her talent shone through. Years later, Christie would go on to write "The Mousetrap," another murder mystery play that proved to be so popular it's still in it's initial run in London.

Some would discount Christie as "just a mystery writer," but even her first attempt in a different medium is a deftly written piece of entertainment that will take your mind off the heat in the feverish unraveling of the mystery to find out who is the murderer.

The Alley Theatre production is playing in Houston through Sunday. If you've never experienced her work on the stage, pull a "Christie" and head on over to Houston to try something new. She did well by stepping out of her box. Here's hoping you'll do the same.



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