Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brain teaser

Hercule Poirot is at work in “Black Coffee” at nexStage

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo Jamey Reynolds as Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s “Black Coffee” at the nexStage Theatre.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie's play "Black Coffee" is not just a whodunit, but a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

And the key, perhaps, is hero sleuth Hercule Poirot's ability to question suspects and witnesses so deftly that they question their motives about everything, and even doubt their own innocence.

That's the beauty of directing and acting in such an intricate play, said Jamey Reynolds, who plays Poirot.

But Reynolds didn't stop with merely being the complex character. In order to immerse himself in Poirot's psychology, Reynolds designed the two-tone Tudor-style London house and library that is the set. He also spent hours over the last six weeks with each of the raw talent that comprises the cast. They didn't just learn their lines, but Reynolds taught them to wear their characters and what it really means to create a part.

"These actors are working at what I consider a professional level," he said of the community members who stepped up to the challenging roles, which will be revealed this week at nexStage Theatre.

"I taught for 25 years and I am teaching them that acting starts and ends with what each character wants," Reynolds said. "We are all motivated by something, money or sex or fame or recognition. There is something that makes you move.

"It's great to have the actors realize that while they are saying 'Isn't it a sunny day?' what they really are saying is, 'I want to go to bed with you.' It's the moment they realize how much acting they do all day long. It all comes together then."

Christie's "Black Coffee" was the only play for which she used Poirot as the center, the character that had brought her fame, recognition, money and, perhaps, sex, in her long colorful writing career. Though her topic was familiar, Reynolds said, the script was a little rough because she was new to the medium, but "it is Poirot at his best and the rest of the characters are very rich."

The rest of those characters are played by Joy Bond, Bill Nagel, Cam Cooper, Hollie Ann Hatch, Adam King, Ben Schepps, Erin Burbank, Mark Cook, Doug Neff, Chris Campbell, Nancy Auseklis and Mike Black.

"It's not the kind of murder mystery where you try and find out who did it—the story is watching how Poirot makes people live better because he is very much the psychologist—he plays with their minds," Reynolds said. "I ask questions and I give answers that it's obvious that I am lying. I play people to try and provoke them to reveal something, or to push their buttons."

There is also a nuanced relationship with his partner, a less adept cop named Capt. Hastings, played by Doug Neff. Reynolds said Poirot's attitude is, "I care for him and I want him to know I am a better man for having him as a friend," but he's not always easy on him.

"It's a play I think the audience will enjoy," he said. "I find directing this play very exciting. It's my job to give the audience slight of hand. We want as many suspects as possible."

The play opens Thursday, Oct. 27, through Sunday, Oct. 30, and continues Thursday, Nov. 3, through Sunday, Nov. 6. Sunday performances are at 3 p.m., all others are at 7 p.m. at the nexStage Theatre on Ketchum's Main Street. Tickets are $20 for general seating and $30 lets you reserve the seat of your choice. For tickets, call 726-4857.

Jennifer Liebrum:

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