Agatha Christie stories truly are from another time and place. Yes, they are classics and feature universal stories such as families, love, life, and death, but the pacing leads to a lack of twists because today's savvier audience is always a step ahead of the characters. There is intrigue but little mystery left in these tales. Still, with the right actors in the roles during staged readings, the stories will be just as captivating as the first time they were read, all those years ago. Saturday night brought opening night of SoapFan Mystery Theatre, a one-of-a-kind phenomena that puts beloved daytime stars on stage in such Agatha Christie stories. The staged readings span two weekends over two months and opened with a bang on Saturday with "The Uninvited Guest."
"The Uninvited Guest" tells the story of a mysterious stranger who has car trouble one evening and happens upon a manor in which he hopes he can call for help. Unfortunately he finds the man of the house dead, slumped over in his chair, and the now-widow admitting to the crime. For reasons unknown, the man decides to help her, but once the authorities and rest of the family get involved, it becomes very clear very soon that the events of the evening-- and the players in the game-- were not what they appeared to be. There is some finger pointing and some assumption, and yes, another death before the truth is finally revealed.
In keeping with the recent onslaught of promos All My Children is doing to announce their move to Los Angeles, opening night featured fan favorites from their cast: Vincent Irizarry, Adam Mayfield, and Jacob Young alongside other film and television greats like Stefanie Powers, Maggie Blye, Constance Towers, and Robert Newman.
While there was not a disconnected actor in the bunch, Jacob Young was exceptionally on-point as Jan, the somewhat slow-stepson of the deceased. Young truly became the character, dragging his leg slightly, wringing his hands, and getting so animated he literally reddened as he spoke. Watching him perform should have been truly inspiring for the many young aspiring actors in the audience.
Young also co-produced and directed the performance. His ability to wear multiple hats and yet not get distracted enough to let the intensity of his performance falter should solidify that despite the current worries over the state of the soap genre, Young will have a career in this industry for years to come.
Putting on a live stage show (even one as simple as a reading) is a true testament for soap opera stars. After all, there are still many people who believe such celebrities are merely gorgeous, glamorous props and can't actually act-- at least not without the help of cue cards. But these few seasoned talents truly proved any skeptics wrong. There is a reason they are able to memorize up to sixty pages a day, can shoot four episodes back to back, and always make you believe they want to marry/boff/kidnap/kill a particular significant other within the show!
The cast posed for photos prior to the reading and then stuck around after to meet and mingle with fans who had purchased the VIP ticket option. And as a bonus, lucky soap fans could spot quite a few celebrity audience member sitting around them, including Newman's long-time Guiding Light co-star Kim Zimmer, as well as Passions' Juliet Mills, and even Hollywood legend Jerry Lewis.
SoapFan Mystery Theatre will return to the WGA Theatre in Beverly Hills on March 27 with another Christie reading, "Spider's Web," this time starring Mills, Ricky Paull Goldin, Maxwell Caulfield, and the return of Mayfield and Young. Tickets are still available; be sure to scoop up yours sooner rather than later!