Whodunnit? “A Murder is Announced” at WICA

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It’s always the one that no-one ever suspects.

The crowd will be full of questions during the newest Whidbey Island Center for the Arts production.

“A Murder is Announced,” is a play adapted from the famous mystery novelist Agatha Christie. It will premier on the stage this Saturday.

The play is an adapted work from the famous novelist known for drawing in her audience with twists and turns while they try tosolve the mystery. Christie builds evidence around certain characters, and often points the finger of fate at the most unsuspecting sorts.

“She’s very good at that,” WICA Director Don Wilkins said. “Leading you up dark alleyways — a verbal subterfuge of sort.”

“A Murder is Announced” takes place after the announcement in a local paper that a murder is about to happen. The characters’ intrigue overrules their worries that the announcement is more than just a joke.

Miss Jane Marple is the star character of the play.

Marple, who is featured in 12 of Christie’s novels, and is known for solving mysteries with intense concentration, will be played by Mary Kay Hallen.

Hallen described Miss Marple’s character as insatiably curious. But some of the other characters could translate this curiosity into nosiness.

“That’s what the everybody else thinks I am ­— an old busybody,” Hallen said.

The large cast of characters add intricacies to the mysterious plot.

The cast of suspects includes a number of young boarders, a forgetful elderly woman, some truly nosey neighbors, a Russian spy and a feisty foreign maid.

“The formula for Agatha Christie is along the lines of the more people in the play, the more suspects,” Wilkins said. “So the guilt could be anywhere — even the cat.”

“It’s very, very clever,” he said.

Each of the characters have their own story (and perhaps hidden identities) and a reason for why they are all together at certain places and times.

“There’s so many little stories going on around the characters,” Wilkins said. “What I like about this particular play is that each character is individual unto themselves.”

The director said that even with the complexity of the characters, the story seems like something that could happen in real life.

“However eccentric you feel the characters are, it’s quite possible,” Wilkins said.

“I mean look at Whidbey Island — what a conglomeration of people we have here,” he said. “I’m just fascinated by the stories of people’s lives, and that’s exactly what Miss Marple’s all about.”

Jason Dittmer has played an important part in the production. He is both the set designer and an actor.

“There is obviously more responsibility doing two jobs,” Dittmer said. “However, it’s exciting as an actor to have artistic input in a play — aside from just performing. And I love that.”

The set designer had specific guidelines from Agatha Christie about what elements to include in the design of the set.

“It’s important to have milestones,” Dittmer said.

“When it comes to props it’s great to have those guidelines,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of the items she calls out are very expensive.”

Dittmer did his best to utilize the author’s formula.

“It was a combination of what the playwright and the author tells us needs to be there, and then do my own character study on the two women who live in the house,” Dittmer said.

For Dittmer, designing the set was like developing another character in the play.

“I think that settings, costumes, props inform us about a character sometimes as much as what the actor is saying, or how the actor is performing,” he said.

Dittmer, Wilkins, Hallen and every one else involved in play production are putting the finishing touches in place before the mysterious production opens to audiences this weekend.

Hallen, a.k.a. Miss Marple, wants “A Murder is Announced” audiences to expand their ability to deduce clues, and stretch their minds a bit.

Wilkins, the director, expects the audience to try to solve the mystery. But he also wants the audience to be completely surprised at the play’s conclusion.

What does the director want the audience to come away with?

“That they were absolutely wrong. Absolutely, categorically, unabashedly wrong.”

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