In a town far away
Agatha Christie sets mystery in Jerusalem; Irish play looks at the conquering power of language
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
Although Concord Community Players will mark St. Patrick’s Day weekend with a production of Translations, its Irish history isn’t the only thing that makes it timely, said director Pat Karpen.
The play is set in an Irish town in 1833 where a school master is trying to get his students to love Latin and Greek while the occupying British are trying to impose English and replace Gaelic place names.
“It’s spoken in English with smatters of Greek and Latin and Irish thrown in. The convention is that the English people can’t understand the Irish people when they’re speaking,” Karpen said of Translations. Only a few of the Irish characters understand some English. There’s an invasion going on, but the English don’t call it that, Karpen said. “There’s also a lovely Romeo and Juliet-type story going on inside of it.”
Karpen first saw Translations, by Irish playwright Brian Friel, in Manhattan years ago and loved it. Bringing it to the stage now, though, is her benign way of expressing frustration about the Iraq war and current political situation.
“I think many of us are just devastated by the political climate,” she said. “This was all I could think of to do.”
“It is about invasion … it is about people actively trying to absorb another culture.... It is about conquering, but not specifically about Iraq. I think the reason it was revived again in New York this year, my guess, is for the very same reason.” It’s a gentle way of asking to look at invasion policies as well as language, and how it can bee abused and used as a tool of non-communication, she said. In the play, Friel addresses how language can separate cultures or sustain or conquer a culture.
Translations will be performed March 15 through March 17 at 8 p.m. at the Annicchiarico Theater, 1 Thompson St. in Concord. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for youth or seniors. Tickets are available at the Chandler Shop and at Ballard’s Novelty Shop, or by calling 225-3972. Visit communityplayersofconcord.org for more information.
Milford Area Players present Agatha Christie’s Appointment With Death, March 16 through March 24 at the Amato Family Performing Arts Center in Milford.
“You can’t spend as many years in the theater as I have without doing an Agatha Christie,” said director Gary Locke, whose first stage job was in 1969. MAP’s board was excited about doing a Christie murder mystery, but plenty of challenges have followed.
Appointment With Death is set in a Jeruselem hotel in 1938. The various travelers there are all suspects when an American invalid with four stepchildren is found dead. The other guests are Lady Westholme and her companion, a young English doctor and her French colleague, a debonair American and a pugnacious Lancashireman.
“Definitely with this play you get a real sense of time and place. It’s very specific. You can’t stage this any place or any time but 1938 Jerusalem and Palestine,” Locke said. “Anybody who has read the book and seen the movie will be surprised because it’s an entirely different ending.”
The show requires a large cast and complex set. Locke had originally pitched Murder at the Vicarage. Unfortunately, the Christie estate took that play off the market because Christie didn’t write the play version herself, MAP learned. Locke felt Appointment with Death was the best play Christie wrote, but the set is much more challenging than that of his original choice. Set designer Scott LaCroix has devised a “brilliant plan to make it work,” Locke said.
The second act takes place in the red rock ruins of Petra, at an archaeological dig in Jordan. The hotel set will be filled with blues and greens of the Mediterranean and Petra’s coppery red to show contrast.
Not many people auditioned, “so I made a lot of phone calls to a lot of very talented people, and to my shock they said yes,” Locke said. Former Miss New Hampshire Candice Glickman is cast. Locke is also acting, “which has been something I don’t ordinarily like to contemplate, let alone actually do.” However, two actors had to leave the show, and the age and accent of Locke’s current role would have made a search too time-consuming. Locke went to school in Europe and has years of theater experience, so the Lancashire accent is one he could handle, he said. His assistant director directs him, and he’s had to do a lot of running.
This is Locke’s first play in this area since 2000. He has mostly worked in the seacoast area, where he staged has own work, After You’ve Gone, at the Players Ring.
Appointment with Death runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. There are also matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 18, and Saturday, March 24. Tickets cost $12 for adults or $7 for seniors and students at Toadstool Bookshops in Milford, The Homestead Grocery in Amherst, at MilfordAreaPlayers.org or at the door. The Amato Center is at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley at 56 Mont Vernon St., Milford. Call 673-9073 for more information.