Joe Monroe, Floren K, & William Monroe in The Unexpected Guest. Photo: Company Outcast

Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest

By Agatha Christie
Directed by Jay Padilla-Hayter

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Agatha Christie is practically synonymous with the murder mystery genre. Her suspicious characters and plot twists have engaged readers for decades. Everyone is a suspect in these gloomy tales of intrigue and betrayal which makes her work so riveting. CompanyOutcast’s current staging of The Unexpected Guest is a cool burn that leaves you second guessing till the very last second.

Having made a home at the NoCo Arts Center in Jeffersonville, CompanyOutcast has crafted a stage in the very same venue as Tuna Christmas. Channeling the charming upper crust of Britain, the set includes quaint accessories and pictures while consuming the entirety of the space. As with most venues occupied by semi-professional theater groups, seating is very close to the action which equally works for and against the performance. 

Initially calling for an intimate viewing of this murder mystery, food wrappers, and soda cans distracted me from the tension building needed for this type of work. And to the audience member taking pictures throughout and noticeably removing chairs out of the audience during pivotal moments of exposition, I invite you to think twice about your choices and maybe consider the copyright laws you are violating. Regardless of these setbacks, the actors champion the performance with admirable focus. 

Meg Caudill is a strong lead as Laura, a widow who may or may not have just killed her husband. Mind games and questioning ensue as a stranger arrives moments later. John Ott’s mysterious Starkwedder holds his proverbial cards tight to the chest against Laura’s heightened sense of shock and anxiety. Ott does well to remain steady with each deflection and distraction he throws at Caudill’s Laura providing for profound confusion that leaves the audience and characters guessing.

What follows the murder is a parade of testimony and pleas from Laura’s family. Margo Morton brings a strict, stern, and orderly performance out of Miss Bennett. Kate Bariteau’s Ms. Warick is an aging matriarch of a wealthy family and fully knowledgeable of the secrets and betrayal. Michael Guanieri’s Jan is a socially awkward misfit with large emotions. He does well to bring humanity to the seeming outcast of the family. Joe Monroe gives a lighter performance as Angell, whose trust was lacking as an aid to the recently murdered victim. Kirsten Dietrich provides another foe to Laura’s troubles as Julian who is motivated by politics and power. Floren K gives a no-nonsense performance as Inspector Thomas. In search of just the facts, K’s Inspector is rigid and pensive yet curious with each clue and testimony revealed. While the first act moves at a slower pace between Laura and Starkwedder’s plan and deceit, the second act contains more action with chances for questions to be solved.

In general, murder mysteries leave you guessing, and Agatha Christie was no exception. An Unexpected Guess  will have you asking questions up until the last second. And with most mysteries, the resolution in CompanyOutcast production is most satisfactory. 

Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest

February  17-19, 24-26, 2023

For tickets

NoCo Arts Center
628 Michigan Avenue
Jeffersonville, IN 47130

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!