A 1920s train lounge set. A young Black woman in a pale dress sits at the left. An older wh ite woman in a purple dress stands center, looking at Hercule Poirot, an older white man standing on the right in profile, holding a handkerchief.
From left: Diana Coates, Peggy Roeder, and Larry Yando in Murder on the Orient Express at Drury Lane. Credit: Brett Beiner Photography

It is 2022 still, so . . . a nostalgic romp through a bygone era with a whodunit twist? Bring it! 

Ken Ludwig transformed Agatha Christie’s novel into a riveting stage text. This timeless mystery is an examination of the limits of a justice system, which may account for its eternal appeal. I will say no more about the plot, for what is a murder mystery without the intrigue? 

Murder on the Orient Express
Through 10/23: Wed 1:30 PM, Thu 1:30 and 8 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 2 and 6 PM, Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, 630-530-0111, drurylanetheatre.com, $69-$84 ($5 discount for seniors Wed and Thu matinees)

Christie’s willingness to put Hercule Poirot through moral quandaries creates the real tension: Larry Yando’s Poirot reveals himself with every sigh and glance, showing Poirot’s weariness with the privileged upper-class shenanigans that unfold on board and his fascination with untangling the bewildering trail of clues left for him. (Read Emily McClanathan’s interview with Yando in this week’s issue here.) Yet he is vulnerable to criticism and vain, as persnickety about details as he is witty in a pinch. Poirot is an observer and an outsider, a workaholic just trying to have a nice vacation, only to discover that his work is never done and drama pursues him wherever he goes. 

With the fortitude of a steam engine, the plot chugs briskly along under Jessica Fisch’s direction as the 11 actors stridently deliver punchlines with their plot twists, building tension amongst themselves and giving Poirot a run for his money. Standout performances include Janet Ulrich Brooks, playing Helen Hubbard, the officious midwesterner who speaks her mind and unapologetically demands her space, and Diana Coates, her opposite as a reserved Hungarian countess who beguiles Poirot with her unflappable assistance during the gory moments on the journey. Another impressive performance comes from Sean Blake (playing Monsieur Bouc) who captures the unctuous cordiality anyone who has ever worked in the travel industry is forced to epitomize.

Murder on the Orient Express is a classic mystery that conveys our hunger for justice and truth. Since those two commodities are never in great supply, it is unlikely this play will ever go out of fashion. All aboard for mystery and surprises.