Who’s your favorite Hercule Poirot? If you catch the iTheatre production of “Poirots Investigate,” opening Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Saratoga City Music Hall, you might just come up with a new one.
One of Agatha Christie’s favorite characters — portrayed in the past by the likes of Orson Wells, Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and Kenneth Brannagh to name just a few — Poirot will be portrayed by three different actors this week in Saratoga Springs.
The show, set to run over the next two weekends, is an adaptation of three Christie stories, all weaved together by Mary Jane Hansen, who already has two Christie adaptations on her writing resume. The production consists of three one-act plays and two intermissions and runs about two hours.
“Poirot Investigates” is a short-story collection written by the famous English author in 1924. The slight change in the name of the show tells you that the folks at iTheatre have a little something different in store for the audience.
“We decided to do something non-traditional and mix things up a little bit,” said Will Severin, who along with directing Act 3 has composed original music for the show. “We have three different actors portraying Poirot, one of them a woman, so you’ll see a different take on the character in each act. We’re throwing a few things at the audience they might not expect.”
John Michael Decker, Johnny Martinez and Anny DeGange will play the three Poirots, while former New York State Theatre Institute director Patricia Snyder will direct Act 1, and Round Lake native and Troy resident Aaron Marquise will direct Act 2.
“We’ve had a lot of success in the past doing Christie’s work,” said Severin, who is married to Hansen. “It’s always popular, and there are escape elements in the show which we can totally use right now. Much of Christie’s work is in the public domain now, so you can change things around. You might not get the Poirot you‘re expecting.”
Martinez, a Brooklyn native who moved to Saratoga Springs with his wife, Diane Lachtrupp, about 15 years ago and created a dance company, Tango Fusion, was happy to offer his take on Poirot.
“I’ve always liked that character, and I’ve been a big fan of the book and the movies for years, although I wasn’t familiar with this particular story,” said Martinez. “He’s a great character, a lot of fun, and I thought it’d be a great opportunity to play that role. I’m usually a song and dance man. I usually do musicals so this is a very different role for me to play.”
Martinez was most recently in the 2019 Park Playhouse production of “In The Heights” in Albany’s Washington Park.
Decker, a Lake Luzerne native and Queensbury resident, was most recently seen at the Lake George Dinner Theater during the summer of 2019 in “The Hound of Baskervilles,” while DeGange, a native of New London, Connecticut, has been a regular performer with iTheatre for the past five years. A Broadway veteran with credits including “Les Miserables” (1987-2003) and “Evita” (1979-1983), DeGange moved to the Saratoga area in 2003 with her husband, Tony Award winner Ron Holgate.
During the dark days of the COVID-19 Pandemic, iTheatre produced two radio dramas via Bandcamp, and in the past has called the Saratoga Arts Center home as well as the National Museum of Dance and St. Clement’s School in Saratoga Springs. This weekend’s performance marks iTheatre’s first full production since “The Man in the Brown Suit” at the Saratoga Arts Center in January of 2020. “Poirots Investigate” is also the first theatrical event to be done in the newly renovated Saratoga City Music Hall.
“It’s been closed for over a year due to a lightning strike and the pandemic, and we’re looking forward to being the first group to perform there,” said Severin. “It’s a really nice space with flexible seating. We’re probably going to limit the crowd to 100 or so and follow all the COVID guidelines.”
Since the production comes during Halloween, Severin says some of his original music will be a bit “spooky.”
“It’s not a musical, so my original music is in the form of a movie score, and since it’s Halloween a few of the stories have a supernatural bent to them,” said Severin. “So the music will be theatrical and traditional in a lot of respects, and it will have a sense of mystery, a sense of comedy and a sense of whimsy. It will be very atmospheric.”
A cast of nine actors will handle all of the roles in the production, which, in accordance with New York State and the Actors Equity Association mandates all audience members require proof of vaccination status. All patrons will be required to wear a mask.
WHAT: An iTheatre production of Mary Jane Hansen’s play adapated from the works of Agatha Christie
WHERE: Saratoga City Music Hall, 474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: Opens Oct. 29 and runs through Nov. 7; show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $25-$15
MORE INFO: Visit www.poirots.brownpapertickets.com or www.itheatresaratoga.org