Mom Theatre Blogger: The Unexpected Guest: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

UnexpectedGuest008_RoseggTheater Breaking Through Barriers (TBTB) launches its 2015 season with a revival of Agatha Christie’s rarely seen 1958 thriller THE UNEXPECTED GUEST, at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre (410 West 42nd Street) in Manhattan.

In THE UNEXPECTED GUEST, directed by Victoria Rauch Lichterman, a lost man, Michael Starkwedder, stumbles into a house on a dense, fog-ridden night, only to walk in on a murder scene at the regal country estate.  Perched against a darkened wall is Laura Warwick, with a steely glare and revolver in her hand, facing her now deceased husband slumped over in his wheelchair, with a bullet in his head.

From there, a detailed plan is contrived in an attempt to take the onus off Laura, who Michael admires and aspires to help.  We’re not quite sure why he’s so quick to defend her, unless his seeming lust ultimately gets the better of him, but the plot jumps off from there.  The long and detailed set-up at times grows wearisome in Act I, but in Act II, you are riveted to your seat attempting to figure out the “who done it.”

The uniformly strong cast features company core members and newcomers to TBTB, including Scott Barton, Melanie Boland, Christopher Imbrosciano, Anthony Lopez, Lawrence Merritt, Anne Marie Morelli, Pamela Sabaugh, David Rosar Stearns, and Nicholas Viselli.

Standouts include — Ms. Boland as a regal Mrs. Warwick, the family matriarch, Mr. Imborsciano in a powerful and wrenching portrayal of Jan Warwick, and a convincing Ms. Morelli as the inquisitive Miss Bennett.  Ms. Sabaugh is riveting and fetching as the wife of the victim, in her classic clothing and raven period eyeliner.

Feeling like a throwback to film noir, the elegant production features set (replete with multiple animal heads on the wall) and lighting design by Bert Scott; costume design by Amanda Jenks; sound design by Sam Crawford; props by Charles Bowden. Production Manager is Sherri Kotimsky and Production Stage Manager is Kate Croasdale.

As a kid, I was an ardent fan of the game CLUE, and this brought to mind the suspense and unexpected plot twists, as character’s back stories are revealed and potential and unexpected motives unraveled.

Theatre-goers are sworn, at the end, to secrecy, so as not to reveal the murderer.  During intermission, audience members are asked to submit their best guess, and those who are right, are entered into a raffle, and the winner received a bottle of champagne…..a nice touch and close to the evening production.

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is the author of The Mousetrap, the world’s longest-running play. Her other plays include Witness for the Prosecution and Ten Little Indians. She is best known for her crime novels, such as “Murder on the Orient Express,” “The Mirror Crack’d,””Evil Under the Sun” and Death on the Nile,” written between 1920 and 1976. THE UNEXPECTED GUEST premiered in London’s West End on August 12, 1958.

Theater Breaking Through Barriers, formerly Theater by the Blind, is a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway company integrating able-bodied actors with artists with disabilities. Founded in 1979, by Ike Schambelan, the company’s mission is to change the image of people with disabilities from one of dependence to independence, to fight stereotypes and misperceptions associated with disability, and to show how vibrant, fluid and exuberant the work of artists with disabilities can be. THE UNEXPECTED GUEST represents the final work of TBTB’s Founding Artistic Director Ike Schambelan, who passed away on February 3, 2015. 

What a wonderful mission of this theatre troupe, and the admirable founder Schambelan.  And, what an inspired production of a classic Christie caper.

THE UNEXPECTED GUEST runs through May 10th.  For additional information, visit

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