Guest host David Strathairn introduces two tales by master of mystery Agatha Christie. The British writer, who lived from 1890-1976, was the prolific author of 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, and has a worldwide following. We celebrated her work at a special live SELECTED SHORTS event hosted by crime writer Megan Abbott, who comments on the stage in this program.
Christie is considered the queen of the “cozies”—murder mysteries that feature colorful characters and dastardly deeds committed in elegant country homes, picturesque villages, or glamorous continental resorts. Christie was also an ingenious plotter—almost anyone could be a killer. Among Christie’s legion of fans is, unexpectedly, the sardonic essayist and quintessential New York cosmopolitan Fran Lebowitz, who cheerfully admits that she’s read the same Christies over and over, because she can never remember who did it, and doesn’t care!
Christie’s two most famous characters were Hercule Poirot, a Belgian-born detective with a vast mustache and an ego to match (recently played by Kenneth Branagh in a remake of Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”) and village spinster Miss Marple.
Miss Marple is given to dithering and self-deprecation, but has a mind like a trap and is a shrewd judge of human nature. Her ego is much smaller than Poirot’s, but she does boast a little in “Miss Marple Tells a Story.” She is deliciously brought to life by frequent SHORTS reader Lois Smith, whose extensive career on stage, television, and film includes supporting roles in films including “East of Eden,” “Five Easy Pieces,” “Fatal Attraction,” ”Dead Man Walking,” “Tumbleweeds” and “The Nice Guys.” On television, she has performed in series that have included “The Americans,” “True Blood,” and “Desperate Housewives.” On stage her work includes Tony Award-nominated performances in “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Buried Child,” as well as the revival of “The Trip to Bountiful.” She is currently appearing in Lily Thorne’s “Peace for Mary Frances” in a production from The New Group at The Pershing Square Signature Center.
Not all Christie’s stories featured her signature characters. She was equally capable of infusing dread in any ordinary setting, such as the peaceful village in “The Accident,” where a former CID man is sure he’s spotted a murderer. “Be very careful,” warns the fortune teller at the village fete. And is he? Well, you’ll hear whether he is or not from reader Hugh Dancy. Dancy is best known for his work on “Hannibal,” for which he was nominated for two Critics’ Choice Television Awards. Additional film and television credits include “Black Hawk Down,” “Ella Enchanted,” “King Arthur,” “Adam,” the television mini-series “Elizabeth I,” “Blood and Chocolate,” “The Big C,” and “Deadline Gallipoli.” He currently stars in Hulu’s “The Path.” On stage, Dancy starred off-Broadway in “The Pride,” and on Broadway in “Venus in Fur” and the revival of “Journey’s End.”