by Margret Echeverria
Anyone want to escape this nutty world and just have a bit of fun tonight? Perhaps this is what Agatha Christie was asking the universe when her life spun out of control and she went missing for eleven days in December of 1926. Today, the mystery lives on. There is great speculation about what really happened and who was responsible for all the panic. If you have an hour to run over to 59E59 Theaters for a little escape into AGATHA IS MISSING! an interactive solo show written and performed by Prudence Wright Holmes, you just may find yourself having a bit of fun when you are pulled up on the stage to unravel the mystery, defend yourself of murder charges and riff with this clever performer!
Miss Clarissa Marbles (Prudence Wright Holmes) greets you right in the vestibule as you walk into the theater. She eyes you up and down, peers into your eyes looking for stains on your soul and, if she sees a flicker of mischief in you, she will throw you up against the wall as she did me frisking for weapons when I quietly said, Hello (did she see the Brooklyn in me?). Once we are seated, Marbles makes it clear that we are not here in this village hall to simply be entertained by a good story. No! We are suspects in the disappearance of Agatha Christie!! And now, let us begin the interrogations with a collective singing of the national anthem. The British one. Don’t worry; she will help us with the words. Marbles informs us that she is an “ace” detective, she will solve this case tonight and we will help her get to the truth whether we want to or not. Once Marbles fingers you (don’t think about it), you cannot escape. She names you as someone who knew Agatha Christie and will bring your character into the spotlight. Beware: Her questions are provocative, probing (that’s dirty, you cheeky ones!) and you will sometimes be interrogated in a series of alliterative vocabulary just to throw you off and make you confess.
A knife! A pistol! Poison! A wild animal! Nothing gets by Marbles. One cannot hide like a pair of knickers in a hamper. Are you thinking about sex again?!
The written frame here containing all this improv is really gratifying for long-time Christie fans like myself. Christie made sport of melodrama and Holmes’ writing makes parody on top of that. It sets up a total party. Soon, we are offering dramatic gasps in appropriate moments of discovery, ooohing and aaahing at Marbles’ processing of the “evidence” and pushing each other onto the stage for more. Holmes is a fearless improviser. She has no idea what the audience members will say or do when she brings them into her show. Some are so stunned that they cannot relax into any sort of agreement with the action, our hearts beat with the electric thrill of live tension and Holmes is prepared for that. The best improvisers in the world can get stumped when their scene partner says, No. Playful, but always in control, Holmes seamlessly makes anyone’s reaction a part of moving the story along even if she has to startle you a bit into compliance. Audience members were asking each other afterwards if anyone was a “plant.” The answer is, No. Well done!
But wait. There’s more! What?? Yes! Christie (Holmes) makes an appearance and explains herself. Do we believe her? You’ll have an opportunity to answer that question, but be careful what you say. Marbles might call you out!
Go. Escape. Have a little fun tonight.
AGATHA IS MISSING written and performed by Prudence Wright Holmes Friday, July 19 and Wednesday July 24 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Tickets or call 646-892-7999.