If you'd like to know who the killer is in Altoona Community Theatre's production of Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Nile," you'll have to see the play, because the cast isn't talking.
Director Mike Manfred has made sure of it, apparently.
"Yeah, Mike sort of threatened us a little bit," cast member Tara Enedy said with a big laugh.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
The cast of “Murder on the Nile” includes: (seated, from left) Tara Enedy and Haley Hawk; and (standing, from left) John Illar, Gerald Cox, Tom Twine and Marissa Bertani.
"Murder on the Nile" - which will be presented at 8 p.m. Sept. 22 to 24 and 2 p.m. Sept. 25 - is a different kind of production for ACT, according to Enedy, who is also president of the company's board of directors. She said the group hasn't done a Christie play since 1994 and hasn't done a suspense/mystery for "a good six or seven years."
The somewhat unique genre was a big draw for Manfred, who will be directing his first full show for ACT with "Nile."
"It's very rare that you see any kind of community theater do anything but comedy or musicals," he said, "so you don't end up with very much 'hard drama.'
If you go
What: "Murder on the Nile," presented by Altoona Community Theatre
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23 and Sept. 24 and 2 p.m. Sept. 25
Where: Mishler Theatre, Altoona
Tickets: $17; tickets available at the Mishler box office, by calling 944-9434 and online at www.
"I'm thrilled that they're taking a chance on what could be considered by some groups as a risky play. I think that they're willing to take that chance says a lot about ACT."
The play "Murder on the Nile" was adapted in 1946 - by Christie herself - from her 1937 novel "Death on the Nile." The story takes place on a British luxury steamer cruising down the Nile in the 1940s. When a guest on the boat is murdered, everyone becomes a suspect.
Needless to say, it's a change of pace for ACT. And that's just how Manfred likes it.
"I've found that creating suspense onstage is really challenging and really gratifying," the Pittsburgh native, who now lives in Altoona, said. "We're adding some music and possible visual effects to heighten suspense and to make it feel like an old 1930s film."
According to Manfred, the cast has embraced the play and has worked hard to make their characters come alive.
"Every night, we're seeing people taking risks and doing things that you're not sure is going to go over well," he said.
"But it's nice to have actors that are willing to take a chance."
One of those actors is Tom Twine of Altoona, who plays one of the lead roles, Canon Pennefather, a British cleric vacationing on the Nile.
The 58-year-old is taking a chance just by being in the play, which he says is "a bit of a departure for me."
"It's a drama; I've done more comedies," Twine said. "[But] you're just being a human being, regardless. There's just no punchlines."
He says, "mine is a central character to solving the mystery," but won't say more than that, keeping the story's secrets.
But the priest being involved in the investigation at all shows that "Murder on the Nile" is far different from other Christie stories.
"An interesting part of this particular play is it does not have a 'name brand' detective," Twine said, noting Christie's famous sleuth Hercule Poirot. "There's no 'super detective' onboard."
That's not news to Haley Hawk, 29, of Hollidaysburg, who plays honeymooning bride Kay Mostyn in "Murder on the Nile." Kay and her new husband, Simon, are at the center of the play's mystery.
Hawk is an Agatha Christie fan and was happy that a local theater group was presenting one of the author's works.
"It's a good old-fashioned whodunit," she said. "ACT hasn't done anything like this in a long time."
The part is her first lead role with ACT.
"It was a challenge, but I don't regret it," Hawk said. "It's work to remember the lines, but it's fun."
Remembering lines might be just the beginning with Christie's writing, Enedy said.
"Agatha Christie is so good," she said. "Just the other day, I was sitting around and went, 'Oh! That's why I say that!' There are just so many layers that she's written in there. You just piece it all together, slowly but surely."
Manfred said "Murder on the Nile" isn't for children, but isn't "adults only" either.
"I don't think that we've built a scary show, but I do think we've got a couple of jumps," he said. "We're not shying away from the violence. We're showing it. If an author shows you violence, it's there for a reason."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.